Anti-Inflammatory Fish Oil Fantasy
Although one could be forgiven for laughing, the similarity between the omega-3 content of fish oil and snake oil has lead to recent suggestions that the latter be once again promoted as a ‘health’ tonic and medicinal supplement.
All irony aside, it is largely because fish oil has been continuously advertised as an anti-inflammatory substance – and because chronic inflammation is a known promoter of heart disease, diabetes and cancer and numerous other degenerative diseases – that it seems logical to assume that it is beneficial.
Unfortunately many studies suggest that this may not be the case.
“Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids did not reduce the risk of overall cardiovascular events…all-cause mortality, sudden cardiac death, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, or transient ischemic attack and stroke.”
A reasonable interpretation of these results suggests that supplementing with fish oil provides very little in the way of benefit when it comes to heart disease. Plus, it appears as though there are some serious adverse degenerative effects in particular with regards to cancer promotion.
“The most striking aspect of our findings is that they were not in the directions hypothesized…omega-3 fatty acid intake, was associated with a large increase in the risk of high-grade prostate cancer…each 50% increase in total long-chain omega-3 PUFA was associated with a 22% to 25% increased cancer risk.”
Fish oil gained it’s reputation as an anti-inflammatory and protective agent via poorly designed studies in many cases comparing the highly toxic and inflammatory effects of the seed oils (like corn or soy oil) with the less immediately harmful effects of the omega-3 fats.
“By taking advantage of the oxidative stress markers, we were able to show that diets rich in PUFAs…were deleterious as compared with SFAs in the heart by providing cardiac susceptibility to lipoperoxidation and shifting the metabolic pathway for energy production.”
In other studies, a temporary reduction in inflammation resulting from the immunosuppessive effects of the fish oils are misinterpreted in order to make the results look genuinely anti-inflammatory. It is well known that the chronic suppression of immune system function is closely associated with the progression of many degenerative diseases, cancer included.
More appropriately designed studies – with the intention of discovering the real impact of the omega-3 fats – comparing fish oil and seed oil consumption with groups consuming the anti-inflammatory saturated fats like coconut oil (or simply little or no fat at all), demonstrate more clearly the damaging and harmful effects of the polyunsaturated fats.
“The cardiac mitochondria from rats fed with coconut oil showed the lowest concentration of oxidized proteins and peroxidized lipids. The fish oil diet leads to the highest oxidative stress in cardiac mitochondria…”
Fish oil consumption has been shown to make immune system T-cells more vulnerable to bacterial infection, whilst directly interfering with the ability of the immune system to deal with both virus and cancer cells.
“Natural killer (NK) cells…are involved in the natural immune response to virus-infected and tumor cells…Fish oil caused a significant reduction (mean decline: 48%) in NK cell activity that was fully reversed by 4 wk after supplementation had ceased.”
Fish oil once consumed is very quick to oxidize and degrade and the breakdown products – such as acrolein – are highly anti-metabolic, directly interfering with thyroid function and overall energy systems, eventually promoting the release of many stress related inflammatory substances which can end up causing a worsening of the very conditions for which it is so commonly recommended to prevent or treat.
Sadly we live in a world where highly nutritious energy providing foods like milk and cheese and sweet fruits – as well as plain old white sugar or honey – are demonized via an endless supply of poor quality information. Meanwhile genuinely harmful substances – like the polyunsaturated fats – are marketed as health foods (or medicines) and it is becoming more and more difficult for most to be able to tell the difference.
“…our data provide further evidence for the role of oxidative stress and markers of lipid peroxidation in the pathogenesis of neuron degeneration…acrolein…functions as a significant factor in the pathogenesis of neuron degeneration in AD [Alzheimer’s] and other neurodegenerative disorders.”
Although it is often the highly profitable waste products from large industries which end up being promoted as brand new ‘health’ remedies, there may still be a market for the re-emergence of snake oil as an all purpose curative.
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Image: Artist unknown