Busting the most common fish oil myths

Better read this before you buy an omega-3 supplement

If you take a fish oil supplement to help lower your LDL cholesterol, you’re wasting your money. The same may hold true if you think there’s not much difference between the various types of fish oil and omega-3 supplements on store shelves except perhaps the capsule sizes (and the size of the smelly, fishy belches some cause after you take them).

“What most people don’t know about fish oil, krill oil and omega-3s may be preventing them from getting any health benefit from these supplements … and could be hurting their wallets,” says Fred Sancilio, PhD, chairman, president and CEO of Sancilio & Company. A health researcher with more than 40 years of experience in this field, Dr. Sancilio is determined to dispel some of the most stubborn misconceptions about fish oils and omega-3 supplements.

Myth: Omega-3 supplements help to lower cholesterol.

“Not true,” says Dr. Sancilio. “Too many people say their doctors recommended that they start taking fish oil because their lipid profile was high. They mistakenly think this supplement will help their HDL and LDL cholesterol. But the omega-3s found in fish, in particular the EPA and DHA fatty acids, work on a different blood lipid called triglycerides. Triglycerides are basically blood fat. Imagine having blood the consistency of chocolate pudding. High triglyceride levels make your blood extremely thick and hard for your heart to pump. When your heart works that hard, it needs more blood to supply more oxygen. When it doesn’t get that, you may have a heart attack. Our bodies are very efficient at removing fish fat from our blood. Not so much fats from other animals. So Omega-3s replace one type of blood fat with another, effectively lowering your triglycerides level.”

He explains the relationship of triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol: “Cholesterol builds up around triglycerides. If you were to cut open a diseased artery, you’d see something that looks like a pimple. The triglycerides would be the pus, and the LDL cholesterol would be built up around it. A triglyceride level above 300 mg/dL puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Anything above 500 increases your risk by three or four times.”

Myth: All fish oil/omega-3/krill oil supplements provide about the same benefits.

“Omega-3 products derived from krill oil typically have less than 25 percent EPA and DHA concentrations. Compare that to super concentrated omega-3 products that have 80-88 percent EPA and DHA concentrations. The best-selling krill oil product currently on the market contains 74 mgs of EPA and DHA in each 300 mg capsule, or less than 25 percent. High-potency Ocean Blue omega-3 MiniCaps have 3-1/2 times that amount: 225 mg EPA and 100 mg DHA. And Ocean Blue Omega Power has 675 mg EPA and 300 mg DHA, which is three times more than the MiniCaps or other large fish oil capsules. Many fish and krill oils have a strong fishy smell even though they claim otherwise. When you smell them, you’ll know.”

Myth: The only way to avoid the fishy aftertaste of omega-3 supplements is to take krill oil.

Not anymore. “Most omega-3 and fish oil supplements are simply mixtures of unrefined fish fat, which can turn rancid and create an unpleasant odor. To eliminate the odor, the manufacturing process requires repeated distillation of fresh fish oil, which removes the unpleasant odor. In refined pharmaceutical grade oils, such as those used in Ocean Blue products, the oil is molecularly distilled at least 26 times, resulting in a product that has virtually no smell or taste. We have eliminated any fishy smells and fishy burps.”

Myth: The giant bottles of low-cost fish oil are just as good as the higher-priced brands.

“Most fish oil is typically made from the by-products of fish processed for food and other uses. This oil is unrefined and not concentrated, resulting in very low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and high levels of saturated fats, which are actually detrimental to your health. This is the oil that is used in most omega-3s and fish oil supplements. Ocean Blue products are made from a highly-refined, ultra-pure pharmaceutical grade omega-3 that is produced exclusively for use in our products. The result is that Ocean Blue products contain the highest amount of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids available per capsule, with or without a prescription. In addition, our products contain no saturated fats.”

Myth: You can get plenty of DHA and EPA from eggs that contain omega-3s.

“Not true,” says Dr. Sancilio. “The Omega-3 found in these eggs is plant-based alpha lipoic acid. It does not contain EPA or DHA.”

Myth: Only people with heart disease should be taking omega-3s.

“The World Health Organization recommends that people without a history of heart disease consume 200-500 mg per day of EPA and DHA. The American Heart Association says 500 daily. Those who have a history of heart disease or related concerns should strive for at least 1,000 mg per day of EPA and DHA. And those who have high triglycerides should be getting 2,000 to 4,000 mg per day of EPA and DHA. So match the product you choose with the amount of omega-3s you should be consuming.

Myth: Omega-3s can’t do anything to relieve pain.

“Omega-3s help reduce the body’s inflammatory response. Every cell membrane is made of omega-6, omega-3, phospholipids and cholesterol. If you damage a cell membrane, the omega-6 starts the process and switches on the pain. At the same time, the omega-3 starts the anti-inflammatory process that turns off the pain. So we need a balance of omega-3s and omega-6s. However most people get way too much omega-6s, which are found in soy, vegetable and corn oil. Fried food is soaking in omega-6. And they get far too few omega-3s. Even with adequate omega-3 supplementation, it may take two or three months to get your system in balance.”

Ocean Blue omega-3 supplements can be found at CVS and Walgreens.

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