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My Advice Keep Taking Fish Oil Despite Uncertainty Over Cardiovascular Benefits

The media wire was lit up yesterday with reports on “omega-3′s do nothing to improve heart health” and various headlines of the such. What’s all the hub-bub?

Was there a new discovery, some breaking research? No, not really. Dig into it and all the commotion is coming from a study just published in the Journal of American Medical Association.

Turns out this “conclusion” that the media has conveniently made for us comes from interpretation of a large scale synthesis compiled from randomized evidence.

You don’t have to be some high brow intellectual to get the jist of words like “synthesis” and “randomized evidence.”

Let’s just say when you see these words you can stop right there and be skeptical of any “conclusions” that are made from the study in question.

My beef is not so much with this recent study, more on the specifics in a minute, but rather the knee jerk reaction by so many in the mainstream media to write columns and stories that simply report on the apparent conclusions instead of putting in thoughtful analysis.

More after the jump….

This is nothing new in the way health and wellness research is communicated with the general public. It’s no freaking wonder people are confused. One day fish oil provides benefits for a healthy heart, the next day it does absolutely nothing.

The same back and forth goes on between various natural, whole foods and their apparent good or evil depending on who you ask.

Really people?

Look, I’m not saying that some individual’s won’t fare better by pulling out certain foods from their diet, especially those foods which are prone to promoting an allergen effect like wheat gluten and lactose.

But does this really mean that no human being could really be healthy and thrive with a large part of their diet coming from dairy products for example?

Entire populations in central Europe have shown completely otherwise for generations.

My point is that it really doesn’t make sense to vilify any individual natural food as an evil that’s somehow responsible for human health demise.

If your body does better without the grains…pull out the grains.

If your body does better without the milk….pull out the milk.

If your body does better with more protein, less protein, more carbs, less carbs, or whatever then follow your natural expression.

When you’re at your ideal body weight, you’re healthy and fit, rarely get sick, and have good reports from your doc, whatever you’re doing must be working.

If you’re not, you’ll simply want to start following your instincts on ways to experiment with changing the way you eat and the way you live.

The pitfall in my humble opinion and the BIGGEST problem with how we look at nutrition is the attempt to isolate variables.

In all my twenty plus years of studying and researching nutrition science every time I think I know something, I remind myself I really don’t truly know jack squat.

Seriously, in the big picture scheme of things the human body is magnificently designed by God’s infinite wisdom with complexities that are so far beyond our depth of knowledge that it ain’t even funny.

This doesn’t mean we haven’t come a long way towards better understanding how the human body functions, it’s just the reality on the limits of our wisdom. Once again this is my opinion.

The dilemma is trying to isolate an individual nutrient or whatever when nothing is really isolated in nature.

Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats are <fill in the blank>.

Here’s what we know…they’re used by the body in numerous ways, they react differently than other fats, they’re found in cold water fish and other natural foods.

Ok, did I leave anything out?

Maybe the fact that people who generally consume more omega-3 fats in their diet tend to be healthier than those who eat processed fats found in crap foods.

Trying to draw some correlation that omega-3 fatty acids can single-handedly cure, treat, or reverse anything is kind of absurd if you think about.

But we’ll look at pulling this one variable out in research in attempts to “prove” it does or doesn’t help with health in some way.

How about the idea that if we’ve deemed something to serve a valuable role in metabolic functions, and we might not do a great job of getting that something in our diets regularly, we maybe…just maybe might find it beneficial to supplement our diet with it in a natural form.

Not talking about trying to get vitamin C from a synthetic man-made vitamin here.

Getting the same omega 3 fats as found in cold water fishes, from oil made from those fish without some chemical alteration or high heat processing seems to make logical sense.

The fact that people who consume diets with more fish and less Big Mac’s tend to be healthier is enough to draw a “synthesis” that omega-3 fats play a role in human health.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

A lot of people will read this latest report on omega-3′s and be like, “well see there it doesn’t work, no sense in considering to supplement with it.”

Doesn’t work on what? Curing or reducing cardiovascular heart disease on it’s own? Well, duh.

Eating a diet full of processed garbage and throwing some fish oil capsules on top wouldn’t do a thing. We’ve got that.

The study behind all of this…

Let me wrap this up real nice and tidy for you. The study was conducted by researchers at the University Hospital of Ioannina in Greece. It wasn’t a specific controlled study per say, but rather a “synthesis” compiled from looking at randomized evidence from a bunch of sources.

Basically we look at a lot of information and draw a correlation. In this case, it’s that omega-3′s aren’t statistically significant with major cardiovascular outcomes across various patient populations.

Yeah, people who consumed omega-3′s died of heart attacks and strokes just like people who didnt’ consume them. Hence omega’3 don’t work for reducing cardiovascular health risks.

Okie dookie, if you say so.

Here’s a quote I found from the authors of the study that does some justice that the media won’t extend.

“Randomized evidence will continue to accumulate in the field, yet an individual patient data meta-analysis would be more appropriate to refine possible associations related to, among others, doses, adherence, baseline intake, and cardiovascular disease risk group.” Go to story.

In other words, yeah more specific research on individual patients would be more appropriate to refine possible associations.

Don’t blame the researchers, they’re just reporting on what they found in the data.

Bottom line….

My advice is simple. If you’re not regularly consuming cold water fishes and getting much omega-3′s fat in your diet, look to supplement with a high quality fish or krill oil. The benefits to overall health are numerous enough that it’ll be worth every penny.

I won’t get into a speech on the benefits of omega 3′s I’ve found with consulting weight loss clients. That’s been done in other posts. Let’s just say I’m a proponent of supplementation and while fish oil is no more a magic bullet than anything else, it’s certainly plays a helpful role in diet.

What say you?

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. He specializes in helping people achieve a body transformation with burst training exercise and whole food nutrition. You can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal fitness programs and start experiencing the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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Category: Nutrition.