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Fresh fish or a fish oil supplement – which is better ?
Most health gurus encourage “fish” consumption, this could mean eating a fish dinner or swallowing a fish oil supplement, both have omega-3s. So does it matter ?Most health gurus encourage people to get adequate levels of omega-3s….
Often times, when making this recommendation, they’re thinking fish.
But, for many people, they opt to tick the “fish” box, through the use of a fish oil supplement.
The fish oil supplement
After all, fish oil supplements are
Plus, they ‘re
- relatively cheap
- easy to come by
And if the marketing is anything to go by, those fish oil supplements, are a panacea for health problems
So they must be the same, if not better, than fresh fish ?
Fish oil versus fish
A group of researchers asked precisely this question.
They used an open study design, they had to. It’s kind of hard to disguise fishing eating……….
You’re doing it, or you’re not.
They opted to test out the “fish” benefits in people with “cholesterol” problems, reasoning, these are the guys, most in need of fish related benefits.
NOTE : The American Heart Association endorses 2-4 g daily intake of fish oil, for patients with high triglyceride levels.
Shiraz Healthy Heart House
106, otherwise healthy, drug free, hyperlipidemic patients, were signed up. Half were assigned to eat fish, the other half to take a fish supplement.
The researchers provided the “fish”.
They did their best to ensure, both groups got approximately the same amount of omega-3s, each week.
- For the fish eaters………….. 250 g of farmed trout, appeared on the menu, twice a week.
- For the supplementers………… 2 g of a commercial fish oil supplement, was swallowed every day.
The “fish” prescription
Amounted to 14 g of omega-3 [2.8 g EPA and 1.6 g DHA] per week, for 2 months………….
Nothing else changed.
Patients were told to eat their normal diet and maintain their usual physical activity levels, during the trial.
So what happened ?
Fish breath and fish stares were to blame.
5 people found swallowing fish oil, distressing on the GI system, so they opted out and 4 people couldn’t cope with all the fish dinners.
But eating “fish”……………..
Improved lipid profiles
Both omega-3 supplements and fresh fish caused a significant decrease
- in total cholesterol,
- in triglyceride levels, and
- total cholesterol/HDL ratio
Along with an increase in HDL, this is the “good” cholesterol.
Confirming consuming “fish” is a health move.
But, there were differences…
LDL the big fish
Eating the REAL THING, was superior to supplements.
All the numbers were better.
Notably, so was the LDL.
This didn’t happen with the fish oil supplement – the fish oil supplement actually made the LDL situation, marginally worse, increasing the level by on average, 18.7 mg/dl or 30.46%.
Why the difference ?
Fresh fish is more than omega-3
Fish is a protein source.
Tucked inside the fish flesh, is an assortment of “other” nutrients, such as selenium and vitamin D. One or more of these nutrients, might be making the difference.
The other disparity……..
Two fish dinners
Now if the “something” they replaced, was particularly “unhealthy”, the fish dinner, would be making a bigger health impact, than the fish oil supplement.
Fishy ingredients ?
Finally, the manufacturing of fish oil supplements, is an industrial process, so there are a few extra things inside those fish oil pills, some of which, may be problematic.
The take home message….
Fresh fish is best !
Women eating lots of fish during pregnancy, may pick up more mercury, but their kids are not at a higher risk of behavioural problems .
When junior is being introduced to solids, fish pate is probably not on the menu, but it should be, because going gaga for fish brings life long heatlh benefits
Fish are growing up on farms, so they don’t always have fishy options for their dinner – for fish it doesn’t seem to matter but it does matter for humans…