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Fish Oil and High Blood Pressure

giant fish oil capsuleYou know, it’s funny.  You can always tell when something has truly become popular because it begins to inspire negative comments. People are so “in need “of something different that what used to be exciting, positive information is no longer read or paid attention to.  Instead, only the negative press gets attention.

That is how I know that I have basically succeeded in my mission to spread the word about fish oil – something that started over a decade ago.  I just read something else that confirms it.  Fish oil is apparently the most popular supplement in the history of mankind. It’s also the most popular supplement among doctors.

That really makes me laugh when I think of all the abuse I had to take from my colleagues a decade ago. The medical director at the hospital thought I had lost my mind and many of my “friends” would no longer speak to me because I had “gone over to the dark side”.

Now they are all taking fish oil!

So, I was not surprised last week when some scientists at my former alma mater released a paper suggesting that  “the short chain ethyl ester DHA found in some fish oils” might not work the way “natural DHA” does to control blood pressure.  They suggested it might even antagonize the effects of natural DHA and not help blood pressure at all.  Notice they did not say, “It makes your blood pressure worse!”

This of course got translated on the internet to: “Fish oil makes blood pressure worse!”, “Fish oil no good for blood pressure!” and something I see more and more of, “Don’t take fish oil; EAT fish instead!”

As usual, no one actually reads the studies, just the headlines and then they get sensationalized, so here is what you might want to know, if you care about the truth.

1) The study was carried out in genetically modified mice.

2) Mice are an excellent model for studying human diseases, including high blood pressure, especially the effects of drugs on high blood pressure but…

3) Mice metabolize and use EFA’s (essential fatty acids) like DHA and EPA (fish oil’s EFA’s) differently than people do. For instance, since they are pure herbivores, plant-based 18 carbon EFA, as found in vegetables and flax oils, is converted well to EPA and DHA in mice. Not so in people.

Mice also make different end products and store and release those end products in different ratios than people, leading to different effects.  These end products called “autocoids” are derived from EPA and DHA and have as much to do with blood pressure effects as EPA and DHA themselves. This makes the statement embedded in this study – people should be careful about using Omega 3 enriched supplements – extremely far beyond what the data of this study actually showed and basically does a disservice, because the actual data on fish oil and blood pressure is quite positive in most studies.

4) The study only looked at DHA effects, not EPA effects.

So, basically this study took a specific breed of genetically engineered mice, used one component of DHA ethyl ester and caused a stir among the internet, by suggesting that this type of fish oil was not valuable for treating blood pressure, even though it has been proven so many times over in other human population-based studies.

The main reasons for using ethyl ester fish oil and the main reasons I make it are as follows:

  1. The molecular distillation process allows for concentration of the essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA) beyond what is naturally found in fish.
  2. The same process, if applied diligently, can clean up the fish oil to parts per trillion in toxins, which basically means no toxins are detectable. This means you can take it for life in the large doses most people need to improve their Omega 3 ratios, without fear of poisoning.
  3. The removal of some of the more saturated portions of fish fats means you are less likely to get oxidized product. We know that oxidized fats of any kind are not good for you!
  4. All of the biggest studies in human populations, like the Italian GISSI studies, with a cumulative enrollment of over 50,000 patients, used this form of fish oil.
  5. Ethyl Ester fish oil is more slowly absorbed and gives “even coverage” of anti-inflammatory autocoids (the stuff that is made by cells from fish oil) reducing heart attacks over a 24 hour period, not just close to the time it was taken. This became apparent when one of the peak times for heart attacks; 4 to 5 AM was flattened out in the analysis of the GISSI studies I mentioned above.
  6. This very same behavior of autocoids from fish oil is one of the main reasons the oft used “krill is better because it’s a phospholipid” argument is nonsense.

I could go on and on and get very deeply into the actual science of how cells and the body use these absolutely essential biochemicals in fish oil, but I think you get the gist.

Somehow, they never ask me to explain this stuff!

Don’t forget to take your fish oil every day!

Doc

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