Fish oil supplements do not boost babies’ cognitive development or prevent postpartum depression

Children's Health, Mental Health, Nutritional Health, Woman's Health
The New York Times reports, "Many women take fish oil supplements during pregnancy, encouraged by obstetricians, marketing campaigns, or the popular view that a key fish oil ingredient -- docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA -- is beneficial to a baby's cognitive development." However, a study published "in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that the DHA supplements taken by pregnant women show no clear cognitive benefit to their babies." What's more, researchers "found no evidence that DHA can reduce postpartum depression, except perhaps for women already at high risk for it." "In the new study, 2,399 women at the midpoint of their pregnancies were divided into two groups," the Los Angeles Times reports. "One took a daily capsule of 800 mg of DHA derived from fish oil until giving birth;…
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8 Tips for Eating Healthy During Menopause

Alternative Medicine, Mental Health, Nutritional Health, Woman's Health
Good news! Aging does not have to equal weight gain. Women do tend to put on a pound a year in their 40s and 50s, but it’s more likely due to a drop in activity rather than hormones. However, hormonal changes can shift your body composition, so any pounds you do gain tend to land in your middle. Here are some tips from Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RD, that were first published on Health.com: Here are some ways to stay slim, reduce menopausal symptoms, and cut the health risks that can rise after menopause. 1) Go fish Heart disease risk is likely to rise after menopause, so you should try to eat at least two servings of fish per week (preferably those with healthy fats like salmon or trout). “Women may want…
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ConsumerLab.com Finds Quality Problems with Nearly 30% of Fish Oil Supplements Reviewed; “Fishy” Claims Identified

Nutritional Health
Fish, krill, and algal oil supplements now account for approximately $1 billion in sales in the U.S. To help consumers choose among products, ConsumerLab.com selected 24 of the best-selling oil supplements and tested them for EPA and DHA, contamination, freshness, and, if applicable, proper release by enteric coatings. Amazingly, nearly 30% of the fish oil supplements that they selected for testing failed to meet minimum quality standards. As discussed in the news release below, ConsumerLab found PCBs in all fish oil supplements (including krill and algal oil supplements) but typically at extremely low levels (addressing questions raised by the California lawsuit in March that I discussed here). ConsumerLab also we found that price is not an indicator of quality with fish oil and that a person need not pay more…
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Is Krill Oil Better Than Fish Oil?

General Health
Krill oil is now being promoted as a better alternative to fish oil supplements. Krill are tiny shrimp-like crustaceans. Promoters say that krill oil provides similar cardiac benefits as fish oil, but with fewer capsules and no fishy taste. However, krill oil supplements contain less of the omega-3s EPA and DHA than fish oil supplements. Nevertheless, manufacturers claim krill oil is better absorbed because the omega-3s are in a phospholipid form. According to the experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, "Preliminary evidence shows that a specific krill oil product (Neptune Krill Oil NKO, Neptune Technologies & Bioresources, Inc) can lower cholesterol and triglycerides." "But," they add, "overall there's much better evidence that fish oil can lower triglycerides and cardiovascular risk." Furthermore, krill oil usually costs more than fish oil.…
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Fish oil may help lower risk of certain types of breast cancer

Cancer, Woman's Health
CNN/Health.com reported, "Millions of Americans already take fish oil to keep their hearts healthy and to treat ailments ranging from arthritis to depression." Now a new study appearing in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention suggests that fish oil "supplements may also help women lower their risk of breast cancer." In fact, "postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 76 who took fish oil were ... less likely to develop certain types of breast cancer than women who didn't," researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found. However, consider this information very preliminary. My friends at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive database say this: Cancer. There is conflicting evidence about the role of fish oil in cancer prevention. Epidemiological research suggests that intake of fish oils from dietary sources or…
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Should some kids take fish oil supplements?

Children's Health, Heart Health, Obesity, Parenting
This last April I blogged on the topic, "Should Kids take Fish Oil Supplements?" and concluded, "... most kids don’t need fish oil supplements." However, for overweight teens with high blood pressure, there may be a different story. Should Kids take Fish Oil Supplements? Reuters Health is reporting that fish oil supplements could lower blood pressure in slightly overweight teenage kids. A new study is suggesting that their hearts may reap the benefits years later. "Starting with a healthy diet and keeping it throughout life may provide better protection than waiting until later when you are more at risk," senior researcher Dr. Lotte Lauritzen of Copenhagen University in Denmark noted in an email to Reuters Health. Fish oil has been shown to help lower blood pressure in adults with high…
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Should Kids take Fish Oil Supplements?

Children's Health, Mental Health, Nutritional Health, Parenting
All the talk about the benefits of omega-3s has parents asking whether CHILDREN should take fish oil supplements. Omega-3s are important for neurodevelopment ... and they're now showing up in many prenatal vitamins, infant formulas, and foods. Fish oil supplements for kids are often promoted as improving visual acuity, brain function, or intelligence. But, according to the experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, "there's no proof that omega-3 supplements make kids 'smarter'...or have any cognitive benefit in most kids." In fact, according to the NMCD, "... many of these claims will be removed ... due to pressure from the feds." The NCMD recommends this to physicians and healthcare professionals who care for kids: Tell parents that most kids don't need fish oil supplements. Instead, suggest that kids eat about 4 oz/week…
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Understanding the California Law Suit Over PCBs in Fish Oil Supplements

Alternative Medicine, Medical Economics, Nutritional Health
Long-time readers to this blog and my best selling book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, know of my enthusiasm for fish oil (omega-3 fatty acid foods and supplements). And, you've read where I've written that no fish oil supplements have been found "to contain detectable levels of mercury, PCBs, or dioxins." Now comes news about a law suit over PCBs in fish oil supplements. Who are you to believe? Here are the facts: According to a report in ConsumerLab.com, "A lawsuit was filed on March 2, 2010 by a group that tested ten fish oil supplements and found that all violated California's Prop 65 labeling requirement because they contained PCBs.  While it raises legitimate concerns, the suit may have created some confusion." Here are some points to keep in mind:…
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Farmed or wild fish: Which is healthier?

Nutritional Health
CNN has a nice report about a question that I'm often asked, "Which is healthier -- farmed or wild fish?" These days, it's hard to know what underwater life you should be eating. There's talk of great benefits from fish-originating omega-3 fatty acids but worries about contamination and concerns about the environmental impact of farmed fish. PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, even launched a campaign last year to discourage people from killing and eating fish, suggesting that they be called "sea kittens" instead. In answering a recent reader question about the relative benefits of farmed and wild salmon, CNNHealth's nutrition expert, Dr. Melina Jampolis, urged the reader to "limit farmed salmon consumption to once a week at most if you are unable to find fresh, wild salmon."…
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Fish oil may stave off psychiatric illness

Alternative Medicine, Mental Health
The AP reports that "fish oil pills may be able to save some young people with signs of mental illness from descending into schizophrenia," according to a study published in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. For the study, investigators "identified 81 people, ages 13 to 25, with warning signs of psychosis," then randomized 41 of them "to take four fish oil pills a day for three months" at a "daily dose of 1,200 milligrams." The Los Angeles Times "Booster Shots" blog reported that "for a year after" the study "was completed,12 weeks of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fish oil reduced progression to full-blown psychosis in a large group of adolescents and young adults," while simultaneously improving "many of the symptoms that identified these young patients as likely schizophrenics…
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The Top 10 Natural Products of the Year

Bioethics, General Health, Heart Health, Men's Health, Nutritional Health, Woman's Health
As you’ve read in my recent health headline postings, alternative medicines are used by 38 percent of American adults and nearly 12 percent of children, according to a large national survey done in 2007 that was released last week by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Natural products were the most popular alternative treatment used by the nearly 24,000 adults and more than 9,400 children interviewed for the survey. But, what were the top natural products used in 2007? More Information: (more…)
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Red yeast rice, fish oil fight high cholesterol

Alternative Medicine, Health Headlines, Heart Health, Men's Health, Woman's Health
Reuters Health is reporting new research showing that a regimen of supplements and lifestyle coaching is just as effective as a statin medication for reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "lethal" cholesterol. Not only that, the combination was shown to be more effective in helping people lose weight. My Take? (more…)
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