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Yet another reason to love Consumer Labs: Their latest fish oil review

I honestly can't keep up with Dr. Oz's daily trend-making recommendations. I think it was a year or two ago that he implored us all to jump on the krill oil bandwagon. Most people I know are getting their (yes, super trendy) omega threes from flaxseed or, less commonly, evening primrose oil (EPO) and/or borage oil.

But there seems to be an increasing amount of evidence (should I write "evidence"?) that fish or at least "marine" (which I guess includes algae and other sea critters that are not technically fish) sources might be superior to the seed sources.

I am interested in this only because there seems to be a potential use (or at least potential benefit with sufficient probability to explore) in cardiovascular health, cognitive function (especially in the elderly), depression and/or other mood disorders and possibly even dermatology! So I wanted to know more.

Behold, appears in my Inbox last week Consumer Labs' up-to-the minute review and thoughtful discussion of all of the aforementioned. Super helpful, super thorough, super credible--and with even a twist of bitchiness is one looks closely enough! I particularly enjoyed that.

This post threatens to grow unmanageable, so let me try to give away the ending here:

Bottom Line
Marine (includes fish, algae, krill) sources of EPA and DHA oils "offer a wide range of potential benefits" for

  • mental health
  • treating inflammatory diseases (which would include some skin problems)
  • "and even cancer prevention"
Importantly, they conclude that where cardiovascular health is concerned, eating fish twice (or more) weekly is more effective than taking fish oil supplements.

Here are the recommended dietary sources of oily fish (per AHA):

  • anchovy
  • bluefish
  • carp
  • catfish
  • halibut
  • herring
  • lake trout
  • mackerel
  • pompano
  • salmon (farmed likely to have higher levels of PCBs)
  • striped sea bass
  • albacore tuna (mercury concern)
  • whitefish
Dose (and relative proportion, EPA to DHA) appears to Important. And MORE IS NOT NECESSARILY BETTER. (Large doses (>2-3g per day) have been shown to suppress immunity. Source cited for this is an animal study: Fenton, Prostag Leukotri EFAs, 2013,

That said, I recall reading (but cannot find source/citation just now, I am thinking it was Dr Dickson Thom, a naturopathic physician from this weekend seminar I attended recently) that if one is using fish oil for dermatologic indications (for example, eczema or other stubborn rash), twice the 1,000 mg daily dose (i.e., 2g daily) is recommended. I will look for the source.

Mehmet's fancy krill oil is, not surprisingly, the costliest of all the options. And there doesn't seem to be much evidence that it is superior to the others. The only difference is the inclusion of the antioxidant carotenoid phytochemical called astaxanthin. But the CL watchdogs have discovered that only really 1-2 companies actually have krill oil with this rhapsodized constituent naturally occurring. That's right, the others ADD IT IN after the fact!

I will have to summarize the rest (and there is so much to tell!) tomorrow. If you are feeling flush with cash, you can become a CL member supporter and read it all first-hand today. I think a year's access only sets you back sixty bucks. And now I see they have NPR type options where they bill you $2.46-3.00 a month, depending on whether you opt for 12-month or 24-month commitment.

I see they also just did a review of 41 different "probiotic" products. (I can explain the quotation marks later.) Will have to get to that later this month.

Michael Barr is a board certified acupuncturist and herbalist and can be reached at Manhattan Acupuncture Associates, with offices at Columbus Circle and Flatiron. His expertise and interests include sports acupuncture, pain syndromes, liver health, immunological support, low energy, mood disorders, anxiety, insomnia, GI complaints, and herbal and acupuncture approaches to getting off/putting off prescription medications of unsatisfactory or unclear benefit, and in helping to manage the side-effects of other necessary and life-saving biomedical interventions. He has also been busy exploring the application of Chinese herbal therapies, and specific acupuncture protocols, for all aspects of sexual health and anti-senescence.


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Comments on Mike Barr's blog entry "Yet another reason to love Consumer Labs: Their latest fish oil review"

I've mostly given up on supplements.
I take half a (cheap) one a day multivitamin and mineral and just try to eat healthy.
When you look at protein / omega3 etc content of food (I use nutrition data site) you can see for example that 1 (cheap) can of sardines
Gives 1,700 mg of omega3 plus all the 'other' proteins / vits in 'natural' proportion and is actual 'food'.
1 orange contains say 70mg vit C - a vit C 1000mg supplement is 'equivalent' to eating 14 oranges in one sitting. Would that be considered healthy eating ? Ignoring that an orange has other ingredients in 'natural' proportions and is 'food'.
Supplements can also interfere with absorption of other vitamins / proteins in your diet.

Hello Mike, Since I was a child I have eaten fish at least 6-10 times a month. Now as an adult I am eating at least 2 if not 3 times a week.

I shop at a stored called Sprouts. Since the Redondo Beach, CA store opened by house I have changed my diet completely (will maybe not completely I do cheat to keep me sane)...

Finally I enjoy your writing style. As said, humor is good for the soul.

I totally agree with you, Ron. If I were not in a "just don't feel like cooking" phase right now, I would not take any supplements either. Plus, I have probably been attending too many supplement company sponsored seminars these days-- maybe getting a bit brainwashed!

I thought the fish oil thing was interesting if higher doses can in fact help with things like cognitive function in the elderly or depression and some skin problems. Just because, I suppose, I have been seeing that in my life and in the school clinic-- and am always looking for explanations and effective treatments!

We used to have great fish market in East Village, on First Avenue around East 9th Street, but it closed many years ago. I guess I could start going to the Essex Street Market, but prices seem a bit steep.

Maybe when I get back to Spain I will have more luck with fish and other sea critters in my daily diet! Thanks for your comment, Marc.

I grew up with a slew of cognitive problems, and it held me back in school. I didn't like the taste of fish. That was until I tried taking fish oil, in double the recommended dose after hearing that it helped with learning disabilities. Since then, I've been able to concentrate and focus on the task at hand. If only I had been able to afford it during late high school and college, for I probably would have learned more than I am now, while I can afford it. Knowing I might one day have brain, heart and artery problems keeps me taking my supplements, even know I eat a full spectrum, healthy diet. The reason being: most of our good, powerful vitamins have been bred out of our foods ever since shelf life became a major marketing concern. Unless you are eating whole, wild grains, heirloom veggies and animals that are not processed to a high degree then I would recommend a natural sourced supplement regimen, including fish oil (if you don't eat fish).

Thanks for summarizing the issues! newly diagnosed and looking for more information about keeping healthy.

Lemme know if there's anything in particular I can write about for you.

Mike, an idea for a future article: benefits of whole food based supplements over synthetic supplements.

Thanks, I totally agree. And now that board exams are out of the way, I will see if I can find any good reporting on this. I think any reasonable person would prefer food and botanicals to synthetic or manufactured supplements. I remember industry "digs" Standard Process frequently makes against Metagenics, claiming that their (SP) products are superior because they are food based and not artificially "engineered." I forget the exact words they use, but will look it up.

My question would be: Can I expect to get the same (or better) results from supplements as I can from properly grown and prepared food? And a sub-query to this would be, What if I cannot afford to buy "organic?" And a third: If I cannot afford organic but can afford to buy locally grown foods when they are in season, is that as good or even better?

Surely someone somewhere has explored these culinary quandaries. Let's see if we can find them.

Parallel to your question, I would also like to study the relative nutritional value of, say, five different carrots, purchased at:

Ralph's (organic vs. regular)
Whole Foods
Armenian market on my corner in Glendale: Kozanian Ranch Market
Hollywood farmers market

If we get additional funding, we could maybe add Costco, Vaughn's, Jon's, Smart & Final, Gelson's.

After carrot, we could look at tomato, strawberry, arugula or kale, bell pepper, blueberry. Especially items people choose for the purported health benefit. I'm open to alternative suggestions.

As with your initial idea, if I have time this week I will snoop around to see if someone has already taken this task on.

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Barr published on April 9, 2014 11:45 AM.

Are exercises (and not nutrition, spectacles or pills) the key to weak eyes and bladders in aging? was the previous entry in this blog.

FDA's Brisdelle override. Power politics or mere desperation? is the next entry in this blog.

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