Volume 4, Issue 34
August 25, 2011

Is fish oil a waste of money?

I recently received an email with the subject line: “Exposing the fish oil myth: Why Americans are wasting their money on today's hottest supplement.” The email was all about how so many Americans are wrong about taking fish oil supplements.

Apparently, they and all of the thousands of doctors and cardiologists who take and prescribe fish oils are just wasting their time and money. And then, not surprisingly, it urged readers to buy an altogether new oil made from the “South American calamari” because of its “superiority” to fish oil. “Oh,” I thought, “A new product I have never heard of before. Great! Let’s look it up.”

So I Googled “South American calamari.” I got nothing except a website selling this new wonder supplement. No scientific information. No clinical information. No references. Not even a nutritional analysis.

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That’s unusual. Virtually anything, meritorious or not, has at least several hits on Google. I’m not easily deterred, so I moved on.

Next, I plugged “South American calamari” into PubMed, the search engine for the National Library of Medicine. Nothing. But surely there must be some research or clinical information somewhere on this exciting new product. So I tried again, this time searching “calamarine oil.” I used that reference term because the advertisement referred to the oil that came from the South American calamari as calamarine oil. Once again — nothing.

Now I was suspicious.

How could any manufacturer seriously market a product as being superior to fish oil when there is absolutely no published research on the product?

So, just for kicks, I entered “fish oil supplements” into the PubMed database. I immediately received 2,046 citations. That’s 2,046 citations compared to zero citations for the calamari supplements. Why would anyone want to substitute taking this completely unproven oil for fish oil when there is so much confirmed data on the real thing?

The most recent of the 2,046 research papers came from the North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy, in Chapel Hill. The report was only a week old. In this paper, the researchers listed the established benefits of fish oil supplements as including the following:

Fish oil supplements lower triglycerides; provide antiplatelet activity (just like all the FDA approved drugs on TV, only without the life-threatening side effects); improves circulation in diabetics; lowers total cholesterol, in particular the bad LDL fraction; increases the good HDL cholesterol; and improves patients with heart failure.

And, in a recent issue of my newsletter, I showed you how fish oil supplements also improve telomeres. That means they likely extend lifespan in addition to preventing disease. And even this is not a full list of all of the proven benefits of taking fish oil supplements.

So once again I ask the question: Why would anyone want to take a completely unproven supplement instead of one that has been as thoroughly investigated as fish oil? I can’t think of one reason. Perhaps I’ll change my mind when there is some research into this new oil (or any other new oil for that matter). But until then, I’ll stick with what I know.

But as I have told you before, don’t go and buy any old fish oil. There are many very poor grades of fish oil out there on the market. The one that I use in the clinic is called Complete Daily Oils. This oil is highly purified, and regularly assayed to be free of heavy metals, chemicals, oxidized fats, and even that fishy taste that happens with so many other supplements. Other companies with quality products include Nordic Naturals and Metagenics.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

Brinson BE, Miller S. Fish Oil: What is the Role in Cardiovascular Health?
Source.  J Pharm Pract. 2011 Jun 6. [Epub ahead of print]

Copyright 2011 Soundview Publishing, LLC.

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