March 13, 2013
Are you taking the wrong
supplement to prevent and
treat vascular disease?
If you suffer from vascular disease, it's possible the supplement you're taking to treat it isn't treating the real cause of the disease. Most doctors tell patients with vascular disease to take fish oil. But research is showing that this may be the wrong advice. Here's why.

Part of the fish oil controversy swirls around the alleged "deficient" conversion of parent essential oils to the longer chain polyunsaturates (LCPUFA). Plant parent oils are the 18-carbon chain linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). I've maintained that God gave us a particular rate of conversion ideal to suit our human needs. And our needs are quite different than what a cold water fish needs.

There is one vitamin – vitamin B6 – that's a crucial nutrient for making this conversion properly. When you have a vitamin B6 deficiency, it raises your vascular risk. We hear all the time that you need more long chain omega-3 to lower your vascular risk. But do you need supplemental fish oil, or perhaps make sure that your conversion is optimal? I stick with the latter. And new research confirms this.

Researchers induced a "marginal" vitamin B6 deficiency in a group of 23 healthy volunteers after they measured their lipid and PUFA levels on a vitamin B6 adequate diet for two days. After 28 days of the restriction, plasma HDL and LDL cholesterol, free fatty acid levels, and red blood cell and certain white blood cell membrane fatty acid compositions didn't change. This wasn't surprising.

However, mean plasma arachodonic acid (long-chain omega-6) decreased from an average 548 umol/L at outset to 490. EPA, the fish oil LCPUFA you might be most familiar with, decreased from 37 to 32 umol/L. DHA decreased from 121 to 109 umol/L. Additionally, the total omega-6/omega-3 ratio in plasma had a minor increase from 15.4 to 16.6. Of course, the pundits want to see the reverse, which is why they push supplemental omega-3. But this research showed that it was a vitamin B6 deficiency causing the problem. It wasn't a fish oil deficiency.

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Vitamin B6 exists in three forms: pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine. The first is relatively heat stable but sensitive to light. But heat, air, and light destroy the latter two. Food processing wipes out pyridoxamine.

Milled wheat may lose upward of 90% of its B6 activity. Baking bread can result in loss up to 17%. Exposure of milk to light in glass bottles may induce a 21% loss. That's why you often see "fortification" of processed foods with B vitamins. Processing destroys the vitamins, so they add the vitamins back in afterward.

I have terrific levels of working vitamin B6 in my body. I believe the reason is because I eat mostly raw, intact, and unprocessed foods (veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, some dairy). This eliminates any foods where processing may have destroyed this critical vitamin. The average American is not eating this way. So a lack of B6 could result in slower than optimal levels of fatty acid conversion.

Is the answer to take marine oils and defeat the sensitive feedback controls of LCPUFA production God gave you? I don't think it is. I'd rather have optimal normal conversion to the proper level my body wants and stick with the parent oils in foods and perhaps supplements like Advanced EFA Formula.


Zhao M, et al. J Nutr. 2012;10:1791-7.

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