A growing numbers of Americans use vitamins and supplements to help protect their health and Fish Oil supplements are one of the most popular. A recent survey by ConsumerLab.com showed Fish Oil use second only to Vitamin D. Fish Oils contain omega-3 fatty acids that have been touted as offering protection against everything from Alzheimer’s Disease to cancer to arthritis. But it’s Fish Oil’s possible link to preventing heart disease that been the biggest reason for its popularity. But does Omega-3 actually protect against cancer and heart disease? A new study seems to indicate “NO” but a closer look at the data reveals some pretty strong evidence that there may actually be a protective effect that was missed in the overall analysis.
The Evolution of Omega-3 Supplementation
The idea that omega-3 supplements may help to protect against heart attacks had its origins in studies of Inuit tribes in the 1970’s. Living in the Arctic meant they didn’t farm fruits or vegetables and there were not may plants available to forage. So, their diet consisted mainly of whales, seals and fish. Yet despite having a diet made up mainly of fatty meats and fish, the Inuits had relatively low rates of heart attacks. The researchers concluded that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish were somehow protecting
the Inuits and this eventually led to the recommendation that the rest of us should start including Fish Oil supplements in our diets.
The flaw in that conclusion was that this was merely an observational correlation that didn’t prove a cause and effect relationship between high omega-3 intake and the low rates of heart disease. And subsequent studies published in 2015 showed that the ancestors of the Inuits had evolved unique genetic adaptations that changed the way they metabolized omega-3 fatty acids. So, rather than getting a protective advantage from their high intake of fish oils, they may have needed to change their metabolism just to cope with their fatty diet and some other factors may be the reason why they have lower heart attack rates than other populations.Read More