Fish oil contains multiple double bonds — five in the type called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and six in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The reason that fish oil contains so many double bonds is that fish live in a cold environment. Oils such as EPA and DHA keep tissues from freezing and blood from coagulating in very cold water.
Therefore, fish oil is adaptive for species that live in the coldest parts of the ocean. In fact, coldwater fish have 14 times more omega-3 fatty acids than warm water fish.
One of the major problems with fish oil is that they are not stable at higher temperatures, including the temperature of the human body.
Professor Brian Peskin writes, “Regardless of antioxidant levels added to the fish oil supplement, rancidity/peroxidation upon ingestion is a very significant and problematic issue. Because of the five double bonds in EPA . . . [it is] highly sensitive to temperature. [Fish oil] spontaneously oxidizes at room temperature . . .”
Monkeys fed fish oil were found to have signs of oxidative damage. And no level of antioxidant ingestion was found to protect against this damage.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that patients with documented cases of heart disease consume about 1 gram of fish oil with EPA and DHA per day. They note that it is better to get the omega-3 from fatty fish, but state that fish oil pills can be considered as an alternative source.
Furthermore, the AHA suggests that those who need to lower their triglyceride levels should consume 2 to 4 grams of fish oil per day in supplement form.
As I have said many times, it’s wise to question recommendations coming from Big Pharma or any of the conventional organizations that receive funding from corporate sources. The American Heart Association is such an organization.
Understanding the biochemistry of fish oil, one would assume that these supplements won’t help any condition, including heart disease. In fact, ingesting large amounts of fish oil capsules can actually lead to adverse health issues.
The long-chain fatty acid derivatives in fish oil (EPA and DHA) are designed to keep fish alive in cold temperatures. Exposing fish oil to higher temperatures, including the temperature of the human body, could result in oxidation or damage to the oil.
Therefore, long-term ingestion of fish oil can be expected to lead to significant inflammation. It may be protected from oxidation while it is in the capsule. But once ingested, that protection literally dissolves.
Posts by David Brownstein, M.D.
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