Fish Oil: Another Piece of Evidence

January 10, 2006

Fish Oil: Another Piece of Evidence 

 Competency # 13  FATS                 Reference: Psychol Sci. 2006 Feb;17(2):151-8 

 This is dynamite!  The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children has been running for 15 years in Bristol, England.  Just two weeks ago, in a conference held in London to review the results of the study, the findings on fish oil were released.   I've seen three references to the study in various media, so it is getting lots of play. 

 Our brains are, to a large part, made up of omega fatty acids.  We have known for a while that eating fish is good for us.  Our first proof came in the world of heart disease when we found that eating fish twice a week reduced our risk for sudden death by 40%.  That dramatic finding suggests that our bodies are starved for omega fatty acids.  What is known about the American diet is that we purify our vegetable oils thoroughly so that they have a long shelf life and can be stored on store shelves for months.  Omega 3 fatty acids go bad in a few weeks, They oxidize quickly on exposure to light and oxygen.  

Omega 6's are much more stable.  Our diet, over the last hundred years, has drifted from one in which we eat a 1:2 ratio of 3:6 omega fatty acids to a diet in which we now eat 1:20.  This is a ten-fold shift.  And at the nerve cell layer, it makes the average content of our nerve and brain cells to be 20% omega 3, 80% omega 6.  

In Japan, there is a ratio of 40% omega 3, 60% omega-six.  Eating much more seafood, and much less omega 6 vegetable oil is the apparent difference. That's background. The findings of the Avon study are that women who ate the lowest amount of omega 3 rich foods (including seafood) had children with IQs 6 points less.  This is important because in America we widely tell women to not eat fish because of the fear of methyl mercury.  The study leaders state that the relative risk of not getting omega 3s is far higher than the risk of methyl mercury.  

But there was more.   At age 3.5, the kids whose moms ate the most fish had the best fine motor skills.  And the kids with the least had statistically higher levels of pathological behavior later and had lower abilities to make friends.  14% of kids from the lowest group showed that sort of behavior compared to 8% with the most fish eaten.  Our societies drift to more and more refined food sounds well and good.  The unintended consequences of that refining are long-term consequences.  This may be one of them.  As we look at absolute rises in mental health, can we connect that to the percentage of omega-three fatty acids in our nerve cells? From what I know of chemistry, when you change ingredients, you get different reactions. 

www. What Will Work for Me:  Consumer Reports studied fish oil pills last year.  They found NO Methyl Mercury.  I take a fish oil pill every day.  You should too.  Eating ground flaxseed will provide you with more.   Please pass this on to every young mother you know.  This is important nutritional news… A breakthrough of sorts.

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI, (262-7844-5300)