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Fish Oil Translates to Healthy Heart: Why Eating Fish Is Better Than Taking Pills

Image: Fish Oil Translates to Healthy Heart: Why Eating Fish Is Better Than Taking Pills
Omega-3 fatty acid sources. (Shevs/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Sunday, 21 Dec 2014 10:27 AM

The global fish oil market in 2012 was valued at $1.69 billion, due in large part to significant demand for the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, shown to aid heart health.

Grandview Research reported that the fish oil market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.7 percent from 2014 to 2020.

But even with that projected growth and strong evidence of health benefits from taking fish oil, some medical professionals say it is better to get your omega-3 fatty acids from eating fish, rather than taking a supplement.

Prevention magazine reported on an Australian study that found that a group of people who ate 20 ounces of fish a week, versus those who took supplements with omega-3, experienced a boost in levels of adiponectin, a hormone that has been tied to decreased inflammation levels.

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“I believe the synergy of all these ingredients in fish are more effective than fish oil, which features only a single nutrient,” study co-author Elizabeth Neale, Ph.D., told Prevention. But she added that people shouldn’t give up their supplements, because studies have shown benefits from taking those, too. Some people, she said, have trouble eating the recommended 15 ounces of oily fish, such as salmon or lake trout, every week.

Natural health practitioner Chris Kesser broke down the fish oil supplement versus fish argument on his website. One of the important differences between the two ways of obtaining omega-3s is what additional elements are ingested when people eat fish.

Fish and fish oil both contain two important fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). But when people eat fish, they also get “vitamin D, selenium, protein, co-factors and a more complete fatty acid profile than fish oil,” Kessler said.

Supplements primarily contain EPA and DHA, although some, like cod liver oil, have small amounts of vitamin D. Kessler noted that fish oil supplements often contain higher amounts of EPA and DHA, in levels it would be difficult to get by eating fish.

But it’s in the area of absorbency where science is unclear, Kessler said. Several studies have found that taking fish oil supplements is not as effective as eating fish.

“It appears that the presence of other fats in the fish activates processes required to absorb the EPA and DHA properly,” Kessler wrote. “This explains why the EPA and DHA are better absorbed from eating whole fish than from taking fish oil.”

One study found that after six weeks of eating fish versus taking fish oil, DHA levels were nine times higher.

More research is needed, but it does seems that taking fish oil supplements with a high-fat meal may improve absorption, Kessler said.

Runners World magazine weighed in on the differences between supplements and eating food to obtain nutrients after a British review of studies about fish oil and strokes was published.

The article published in the British Medical Journal found “eating fish twice a week lowers your risk of stroke by about 6 percent; eating five servings a week lowers risk by 12 percent,” Runners World said. 

But the article said that taking supplements with omega-3 fatty acids didn’t show a “significant benefit” against strokes.

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“Fish consumption is considered one of the key components of a cardioprotective diet. Current cardiovascular guidelines for healthy individuals encourage consumption of a variety of fish, preferably oily types, at least twice a week,” the study authors wrote.

The study confirmed current guidelines, its authors wrote, “(that is, to encourage fish consumption for all; and intake of fish oils, preferably from oily fish, to people with pre-existing or at high risk of coronary heart disease) and favour propositions that the future nutritional guidelines should be principally ‘food based.’”

The American Heart Association recommends: “Increasing omega-3 fatty acid consumption through foods is preferable. However, those with coronary artery disease, may not get enough omega-3 by diet alone. These people may want to talk to their doctor about supplements. And for those with high triglycerides, even larger doses could help.”

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The global fish oil market in 2012 was valued at $1.69 billion, due in large part to significant demand for the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, shown to aid heart health.
fish oil, eating, fish, better
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2014-27-21
Sunday, 21 Dec 2014 10:27 AM
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