Is there Something Fishy about Fish Oil?

October 09, 2012

Is there Something Fishy about Fish Oil? 

 Reference:  Sang Me Kwak in Archives of Internal Medicine

Is fish oil really not that good for you?  From Korea, Dr Kwak and his team looked at 14 studies with over 20,000 total patients to come up with the suggestion that there may be no extra benefit to taking fish oil as a supplement for those who have had a heart attack.  

This has been a bit of a bombshell with lots of folks calling about whether they should take their fish oil.  This question certainly made the news, as all news channels carried it and many have heard the question. What is interesting is that no one has reported on the editorial that accompanied the article.  

Frank Hu, from Harvard and one of America’s leading omega – fat and diet experts noted in the editorial that two large studies were excluded from the meta-analysis that would have tilted the data to show support and a positive effect.  It doesn’t make headlines to show that someone did sloppy research.  It sure makes headlines to publish the controversy.  You sell advertising copy.  Hu also noted that 97% of the people in the studies involved were also taking a statin, with their known anti-inflammatory effect.  That means this report is a mashing of data that doesn’t apply to most of us who aren’t taking a statin and haven’t had a heart attack.  

Give me 1007 studies and I can find 14 in that group that will say almost anything. But this report lays out a bigger problem with nutritional research.  To apply the concept of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to lifestyle issues requires large studies that go for very long times.  That’s hugely expensive.  And then you have hundreds of confounding variables.  Heart disease does not start at 45.  It starts with the first trip to fast food and sugar at age one.  To reverse it, once it is mature, is a very demanding threshold.  The goal of prevention and modulation of risk factors with lifestyle changes requires a very long time horizon. 

 The Harvard Nurses Study, run by Frank Hu, shows omega fats to be hugely helpful.  And lifestyle changes beat any pharmaceutical intervention cold – including fish oil. 

 WWW.  What will work for me.  I’m annoyed this study was even published.  It’s such a badly done piece of work.  That the editors let it through, even with Frank Hu’s clear editorial critique suggests they are looking for controversy instead of truth.  Anyone can write anything.  I’m sticking with my fish oil, thank you for much.  And you should too.  (Actually, we should all be sticking with our grass raised meat for those of us who eat meat.  Then you wouldn’t need the fish oil as much.) 

 Written by John E Whitcomb, MD  Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic, 17585 W North Ave, Suite 160   Brookfield, WI 53045   262-784-5300