Tag Archives: fish oil

Spoilage and labeling errors with some omega-3 and -6 supplements

A new report on the quality of omega-3 and -6 fatty acid supplements made from seed oils was recently released by ConsumerLab.com. Only 11 of 17 products selected for testing met quality criteria for freshness and labeling. Continue reading

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

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; the other took an identical capsule filled with vegetable oil.”

Then, “six weeks and six months after each woman delivered her baby, researchers had her complete a psychological inventory to check for symptoms of depression.” Next, when the babies were about 18 months old, investigators subjected them to comprehensive batteries of tests to measure their cognitive ability.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the study authors found no evidence that the fish oil supplements prevented new mothers from postpartum depression or enhanced cognitive development in their babies. However, the study indicated that 800 mg of fish oil daily appeared to decrease the chances of developing postpartum depression by about four percent in women who already had a history of clinical depression. This was not considered a statistically significant difference, however.

According to a report in Bloomberg News, an editorial accompanying the study “said pregnant women shouldn’t give up eating low-mercury fish or taking recommended doses of fish oil, as the mineral does help prevent preterm labor and may have benefits not shown in the study.”

“The study did find that significantly fewer infants from the DHA group spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit, compared to infants in the control group — something that researchers attributed to fewer preterm births in the DHA group,” HealthDay reported. “DHA supplementation was associated with a ‘small to modest increase in the duration of gestation,’ they reported.”

WebMD reported that, despite the study’s conclusions, the authors “concede that further work is needed to determine the benefits of DHA for women with a history of depression or those at risk of delivering prematurely,” a concession echoed by the authors of the accompanying editorial.

8 Tips for Eating Healthy During Menopause

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 to give [fish oil] supplements a try if having two servings of fish a week is problematic,” says JoAnn Manson, MD, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston.

Preliminary research suggests that fish oil may also help prevent breast cancer.

Aim for two servings of fish a week—and talk to your doctor about whether or not you should try a supplement.

2) Slim down

If you’re overweight you can minimize menopausal symptoms and reduce the long-term risks of declining hormones by losing weight, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine, in New Haven, Conn.

Slimming down not only reduces the risks of heart disease and breast cancer, both of which go up after menopause, says Dr. Minkin, but new research shows that it may also help obese or overweight women cut down on hot flashes.

3) Bone up on calcium

Your calcium needs go up after age 50, from 1,000 milligrams per day to 1,200 mg. “With less estrogen on board, your bones don’t absorb calcium as well,” says Dr. Minkin.

If you have a cup of low-fat milk, one latte, and one 8-ounce yogurt, you’re getting around 1,100 mg calcium. This means you need to take only an additional 100 mg of supplements a day—less than one caplet’s worth—to make up the difference.

If you’re eating dairy, choose low-fat products. These have roughly the same amount of calcium as their full-fat counterparts, but with fewer calories.

4) Ease bloating

“About 100% of my patients going through menopause complain of bloating,” says Dr. Minkin. Although the reasons aren’t clear, fluctuating hormones during perimenopause may play a role.

Dr. Minkin recommends cutting the amount of salt and processed carbohydrates in your diet, as they can make you retain water. But don’t skimp on whole grains, which are rich in heart-healthy fiber, as well as fruits and vegetables.

If healthy food, such as apples and broccoli, make you feel bloated, Dr. Minkin suggests taking Mylanta or Gas-X to combat gas buildup.

5) Rethink that drink

Red wine gets a lot of press for its impact on heart health, but for menopausal women the drawbacks of alcohol might outweigh the benefits.

“One drink a day has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer,” says Dr. Manson. “So while it has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, it really is a trade-off for women.”

If you enjoy a glass of Pinot, try watering it down with seltzer to make a spritzer (you’ll cut calories too). Also keep in mind that red wine and other drinks may bring on hot flashes as a result of the increase in blood-vessel dilation caused by alcohol.

6) Say yes to soy

Soy contains plant estrogens, so many women think it can increase their breast cancer risk, says Dr. Minkin. However, there is little data to support this. The misconception likely comes from studies of high-dose soy supplements, which may stimulate the growth of estrogen-sensitive tumors.

Soy foods like tofu, soy nuts, and soy milk may offer relief from mild hot flashes and are not thought to increase breast cancer risk. “Women in Japan have the highest soy intake and the lowest risk of breast cancer, but Japanese women who move to the U.S. and eat less soy have a higher risk,” adds Dr. Minkin.

7) Try iced herbal tea

A warm cup of joe might be as much a part of your a.m. routine as brushing your teeth. Still, starting your day with a piping-hot drink may not be the best idea during menopause.

“In general, warm beverages seem to trigger hot flashes,” says Dr. Manson. “And the caffeine in coffee and tea could also be having an effect.”

Cover your bases by swapping your morning cup with something cool and decaffeinated—like a Tazo Shaken Iced Passion Tea at Starbucks or a decaf iced coffee.

8) Find a diet that fits

If you need to shed pounds, weight loss is no different during menopause than before it. “If you take in less calories than you burn for a long period of time, you’re going to lose weight,” says Dr. Minkin.

Any balanced diet that cuts calories—and that you can stick with in the long run—will do the job.

However, one study found that postmenopausal women who were on a diet that was low in fat and high in carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits, and grain were less likely to gain weight than women who ate more fat. Consider the new CarbLovers Diet which is rich in whole grains and other figure-friendly foods.

ConsumerLab.com Finds Quality Problems with Nearly 30% of Fish Oil Supplements Reviewed; “Fishy” Claims Identified

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 than about 6 cents a day to get a good product (as I discuss in another blog, here); they also point out that the term “pharmaceutical grade” on products is meaningless; and they note out that actual amount of omega-3’s will range from less than 20% to over 80% of the “fish oil” shown on the front label, so you need to read the Supplement Facts carefully.

Here are more details from the ConsumerLab press release:

Softgels and Liquids for Adults, Children and Pets Tested, Including Krill Oil and Algal Oil Supplements

White Plains, New York – Tests of fish, algal and krill oil supplements revealed quality problems with 7 out of 24 products selected by independent testing organization ConsumerLab.com.

Three products contained less of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and/or DHA than claimed, spoilage was detected in one of these products as well as in two others (including a children’s supplement), an enteric-coated product released its ingredients too early, and a supplement for pets exceeded the contamination limit for PCBs.

Seventeen other products passed testing as did 15 products similarly tested through ConsumerLab.com’s voluntary certification program. ConsumerLab.com’s report is now available online to its members.

ConsumerLab.com reported these additional, notable findings:

  • Labels on some products included terms such as “pharmaceutical grade” and “tested in FDA approved laboratories,” which are meaningless as there is no  basis for either claim.
  • A krill oil supplement that failed for both spoilage and low omega-3 levels claimed to be quality assured under GMPs (good manufacturing practices).
  • Another “krill oil” supplement contained more fish oil than krill oil.
  • Most products met ConsumerLab.com’s strict contamination limit for dioxin-like PCBs of 3 picograms per gram (3 parts per trillion). However, one product (a pet supplement) slightly exceeded this limit with 3.14 picograms per gram. However, this exposure is still very small compared to that from fish meat — a small serving (3 ounces) of fatty fish such as salmon may easily provide 170 picograms of dl-PCBs as well as a significant amount of mercury. Trace amounts of dl-PCBs were found in all supplements, despite claims on some of being free of contaminants. There was no detectable mercury in any of the supplements.
  • The cost to obtain 100 mg of EPA and/or DHA from fish oil ranged from about 1 cent to 15 cents among fish oil supplements, and was about 30 cents from krill or algae oils. A fairly standard daily dose of 500 mg of EPA + DHA from a quality-approved product could be had for as little as 6 cents.  Higher prices were not associated with higher quality.
  • Concentrations of EPA and DHA ranged from less than 20% to over 80% of the marine oil content listed on front labels — which is why consumers should specifically look for the amounts of EPA and DHA which typically appear on side labels.

“Supplements providing EPA and/or DHA are a great alternative to fish as a source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, as they typically have far fewer contaminants, cost less, and are more convenient to obtain. But products vary in quality, strength, odor-reduction, and price, so you need to choose carefully,” said Tod Cooperman, M.D., ConsumerLab.com’s president.

Consumption of EPA and DHA appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and may be helpful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, other inflammatory diseases, and psychiatric illness. EPA and DHA may also reduce the risk of certain cancers and macular degeneration. Fish oil supplements are given to pets to help maintain their coats and skin.

U.S. sales of fish oil supplements in 2009 were $976 million, up 20% from the prior year, according to Nutrition Business Journal. A recent survey by ConsumerLab.com showed that fish oil had become the most commonly used supplement among people who regularly use supplements, exceeding, for the first time, the use of multivitamins. Seventy four percent of respondents reported using a fish oil supplement.

The new report includes test results, quality ratings, comparisons and reviews of products from the following brands: Advocare, CardioStat (Amerifit), Carlson, CVS, Dr. Sears, Finest Natural (Walgreen), Garden of Life, Kirkland (Costco), Life Extension, Liquid Solutions, Master Omega, Natrol, Natural Factors, Nature Made, New Chapter, Nordic Naturals, NOW, NSI (Vitacost), Olympian Labs, OmegaBrite, Origin (Target), PregnancyPlus, Puritan’s Pride, Quest Longevity (Canadian), Res-Q, Solgar, Source Naturals, Spring Valley (Walmart), Swanson, Trader Joe’s, The Simpsons, Vital Nutrients, VitalOils (VitalRemedyMD), Vitamin Shoppe, Vitamin World, Weil, Wellements, and 1-800-PetMeds. The report also includes information about dosing, side-effects, cautions, reduced-odor products, and proper storage of fish oil.

In addition to the products reviewed, two krill oil ingredients by Enzymotec USA have been tested and approved for quality through ConsumerLab.com’s Raw Materials Testing Program.

ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. The company is privately held and based in Westchester, New York. It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products.

Is Krill Oil Better Than Fish Oil?

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.

So, the NMCD recommends to prescribers, “For now, advise patients to stick with fish oil. Recommend taking it with food or trying an enteric-coated product if fishy taste is a problem. Suggest krill oil only for healthy people who want to add these omega-3s to their diet but can’t tolerate fish oil.”

Fish oil may help lower risk of certain types of breast cancer

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 higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils are associated with a decreased risk of several cancers including oral cancer, pharyngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer (6395,7378,9773,9774,10153,12958,12959,12960,12961) (12962,15736); however, a pooled analysis of data from studies on fish oils and cancer risk suggests that consuming fish oil from dietary sources does not significant reduce the risk of various cancers (14264).
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 higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils are associated with a decreased risk of several cancers including oral cancer, pharyngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer; however, a pooled analysis of data from studies on fish oils and cancer risk suggests that consuming fish oil from dietary sources does not significant reduce the risk of various cancers.

You can read more about the study here.

You can also read my blog on how to take the right kind and amount of fish oil here.

Should some kids take fish oil supplements?

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 blood pressure and to have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels. Lauritzen and colleagues wondered if fish oil’s benefits might be seen during the rapid growth period of adolescence.

She and her team recruited about 80 slightly overweight Danish boys between the ages of 13 and 15, and randomly divided them into two groups:

  • one received daily doses of fish oil (1.5 grams, or as much as one and a half soft gels) and
  • the other equivalent amounts of vegetable oil (the placebo).

The oils were infused in bread, masking any fishy taste and blinding the kids to their assigned group.

After the 16-week study, the researchers noted that the kids consuming fish oil-laced bread had 3.8 mm Hg lower systolic pressure (the top reading) and 2.6 mm Hg lower diastolic pressure (the bottom reading), compared to the placebo group.

In adults, a drop in blood pressure of 3 mm Hg corresponds to at least a 15 percent reduction in the risk of stroke, they point out.

Blood pressure in early life has been shown to track into adulthood, with children and adolescents with high blood pressure more likely to suffer from high blood pressure later in life.

This happens either by diet and exercise habits carried over time, or a “programing” that takes place in the body, the researchers explain in The Journal of Pediatrics. Most of the boys in the current study had blood pressure within the normal range.

The researchers also evaluated other heart disease risk factors, including blood sugar levels, insulin and cholesterol. While they found a slight change in HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and non-HDL cholesterol — both were higher in the fish oil group — no other differences emerged.

“I don’t think that the fact that the other were not significant means that fish oil doesn’t benefit them,” Natalie Riediger, a PhD student at the University of Manitoba in Canada and lead researcher on a recent review of fish oil’s role in health and disease, told Reuters Health in an email.

Riediger explains that the study used a more “realistic” dose of fish oil than studies that may have found changes in more risk factors. “I don’t think it’s practical for people to consume 10 capsules per day as described in other studies,” she said.

Also, the vegetable oil used in the placebo bread contained a small amount of the same heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that were in the fish oil, which may have weakened the resulting differences between the two groups

Regardless, the influence on blood pressure alone may confirm Lauritzen’s hunch: cardiovascular function is susceptible to fish oil’s effects during growth spurts. “There’s something going on,” she said. “And more research is needed.”

Her advice for now: “Give children good food habits early, including a taste for fish.”

Amen.

Should Kids take Fish Oil Supplements?

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 of fatty fish … such as canned light tuna, salmon burgers, etc. This provides about 250 mg/day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
  • Supplements may be worth a try for kids who don’t get enough omega-3s from diet … especially those with behavioral or psychiatric disorders as preliminary evidence suggests fish oil MIGHT benefit kids with ADHD symptoms … autism … depression … or those at high risk for psychosis.
  • Reassure parents that most fish oil supplements don’t contain mercury or harmful levels of PCBs. To be safe, suggest a “USP Verified” or “ConsumerLab” product.
  • Tell parents NOT to use cod liver oil, as it has too much vitamin A.
  • Tell parents NOT to use flaxseed, as it doesn’t contain the same omega-3s as fish oil.

If You Are Going to take Fish Oil — here’s how to take the right amount

The amount of fish oil one has to take each day depends upon why one is taking it. Here are some diseases and the amount of the effective daily doses of total fish oil or EPA and DHA (the most active components of fish oil) needed for each disorder (according to the experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database): Continue reading

Understanding the California Law Suit Over PCBs in Fish Oil Supplements

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:

  • Virtually all fish meat and fish oil supplement will contain some PCBs.
  • The samples chosen were oils made primarily made from larger fish (including shark) and fish “liver,” which tend to have higher amounts of contaminants.
  • The majority of the products had extremely low levels of PCBs.  Somewhat higher levels were found in a few products.
  • But, NONE of these pose a health risk in themselves, but those with higher levels might unnecessarily contribute to PCB exposure.
  • The products are identified by name in a news release about the suit which includes two tables.
    • The first table shows total PCBs.
    • The second table shows the amount of dioxin-like PCBs, which may be more meaningful as it focuses on the subset of PCBs known to be harmful in animal studies.
    • Be aware that results in both tables are skewed against products that suggest higher daily serving sizes.

According to ConsumerLab, “To put the findings in perspective, total daily PCBs reported was under 100 nanograms for most supplements and did not exceed 900 nanograms for any.

“The importance of this is that the FDA permits an 8 ounce serving of fish to contain about 450,000 nanograms of total PCBs, 500 times more than in any of these products. The EPA, using a more conservative approach, estimates that the average adult can consume 1,400 nanograms of total PCBs per day without harmful effects.”

So, I, and the experts with whom I’ve spoken, stand by our previously published statements on the safety of omega-3 fish oil supplements.

You can read a couple of my other blogs on the topic here:

Farmed or wild fish: Which is healthier?

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.”

The answer, which also quoted a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, generated a flurry of questions and comments. In response, CNNHealth took a deeper look at the issue.

“It’s really high time that people have a new perspective on farmed salmon from a nutrition standpoint,” said Gavin Gibbons, spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute Inc., the largest seafood trade organization in the United States.

Salmon is rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fat and is a good source of protein while being low in calories and saturated fat. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death and are associated with better cholesterol levels.

Six ounces of East Coast Atlantic salmon has more DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids than the same weight of wild salmon, shrimp, chicken or beef (which has none).

Because of these benefits, the American Heart Association says, people should eat fish twice a week, especially fatty fish such as salmon.

But studies have found that some species of fish are contaminated with methylmercury, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

A 2003 report from the Environmental Working Group showed that farmed salmon in the U.S. has the highest levels of PCBs, toxic man-made chemicals. And a widely publicized study in the journal Science in January 2004 suggested that farmed Atlantic salmon had higher levels of PCBs and other toxics than wild Pacific salmon.

Amid public concern, the importation of farmed Atlantic salmon to the United States went down by 20 percent in early 2004.

But subsequent research has found that the health benefits of both farmed and wild salmon exceed potential risks, said Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Rimm was a co-author of a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006 that said the PCB levels in farmed salmon were not a cause of concern compared with the benefits.

“It’s clear that if there is any risk, the benefit is still in the range of 300 to 1,000 times greater from the fact that you’re getting the omega-3s,” he said.

Jampolis, citing the more recent research, agreed that the benefits of eating any salmon outweigh the risks, especially with heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States and the fact that salmon is one of the best sources of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

She continues to recommend trimming the skin and fat as much as possible and using cooking methods such as grilling and boiling to reduce fat, as this is where the toxic chemicals are stored.

Farmed fish receive a diet that often consists of smaller fish, such as sardines, and if they eat contaminated food, the fish themselves retain that toxicity.

In recent years, fish-feed makers have done a better job of regulating themselves, and the levels of some contaminants have gone down, Rimm said. Farmed salmon is not the main source of PCBs for the average person; in fact, the majority of these chemicals that we ingest daily probably comes from other animal products such as beef and chicken, he said.

Because farmed salmon are fed more, they contain more omega-3 fatty acids than wild fish, which tend to burn off these fats, he said.

Anyone concerned about contamination issues should try to find out where their fish came from and read about any potential problems in that area, said David Love, project director at the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He called for more widespread testing of contaminants in fish in the United States and better labeling practices so consumers know how and where their fish were caught.

Fish eaters should also consider eating smaller fish on the food chain, such as anchovies, mackerel and sardines, because they live shorter lives and don’t have as much opportunity as larger fish to pick up toxics, Love said. Since they are lower on the food chain, they are a more sustainable choice, he said.

The environmental impact of eating particular kinds of fish is an important matter but not so straightforward, experts say. To produce one farmed salmon, you have to feed it more than its weight in smaller fish, which leads to a net loss of fish from the sea and potential ecosystem disruption, Love said.

“It may not hurt my health, and it may not hurt your health, but on a population level, you can see some issues,” Love said.

Some farmed fish may also receive antibiotics that, if spread in the human population in large quantities, could lead to antibiotic resistance, meaning bacteria would no longer respond to these drugs, he said.

But there are also farmed fish produced in environmentally friendly situations, Rimm said. In some cases, it may take more energy to capture wild fish than to keep them in a pen, leading to a negative environmental impact.

Eating different kinds of fish is good for both your individual health and for the environment, experts say. From the health angle, it minimizes your risk of contamination from any one fish group, Jampolis said. From the environmental perspective, it would be detrimental to the ecosystem if everyone ate just one kind of fish en masse, Love said.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/01/13/salmon.farmed.fresh/index.html
Got a wish for 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.” The answer, which also quoted a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, generated a flurry of questions and comments. In response, CNNHealth took a deeper look at the issue.
“It’s really high time that people have a new perspective on farmed salmon from a nutrition standpoint,” said Gavin Gibbons, spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute Inc., the largest seafood trade organization in the United States.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fat and is a good source of protein while being low in calories and saturated fat. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death and are associated with better cholesterol levels.
Six ounces of East Coast Atlantic salmon has more DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids than the same weight of wild salmon, shrimp, chicken or beef (which has none).
Because of these benefits, the American Heart Association says, people should eat fish twice a week, especially fatty fish such as salmon.
But studies have found that some species of fish are contaminated with methylmercury, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
A 2003 report from the Environmental Working Group showed that farmed salmon in the U.S. has the highest levels of PCBs, toxic man-made chemicals. And a widely publicized study in the journal Science in January 2004 suggested that farmed Atlantic salmon had higher levels of PCBs and other toxics than wild Pacific salmon.
Amid public concern, the importation of farmed Atlantic salmon to the United States went down by 20 percent in early 2004.
But subsequent research has found that the health benefits of both farmed and wild salmon exceed potential risks, said Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Rimm was a co-author of a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006 that said the PCB levels in farmed salmon were not a cause of concern compared with the benefits.
“It’s clear that if there is any risk, the benefit is still in the range of 300 to 1,000 times greater from the fact that you’re getting the omega-3s,” he said.
Jampolis, citing the more recent research, agreed that the benefits of eating any salmon outweigh the risks, especially with heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States and the fact that salmon is one of the best sources of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
She continues to recommend trimming the skin and fat as much as possible and using cooking methods such as grilling and boiling to reduce fat, as this is where the toxic chemicals are stored.
Farmed fish receive a diet that often consists of smaller fish, such as sardines, and if they eat contaminated food, the fish themselves retain that toxicity.
In recent years, fish-feed makers have done a better job of regulating themselves, and the levels of some contaminants have gone down, Rimm said. Farmed salmon is not the main source of PCBs for the average person; in fact, the majority of these chemicals that we ingest daily probably comes from other animal products such as beef and chicken, he said.
Because farmed salmon are fed more, they contain more omega-3 fatty acids than wild fish, which tend to burn off these fats, he said.
Anyone concerned about contamination issues should try to find out where their fish came from and read about any potential problems in that area, said David Love, project director at the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He called for more widespread testing of contaminants in fish in the United States and better labeling practices so consumers know how and where their fish were caught.
Fish eaters should also consider eating smaller fish on the food chain, such as anchovies, mackerel and sardines, because they live shorter lives and don’t have as much opportunity as larger fish to pick up toxics, Love said. Since they are lower on the food chain, they are a more sustainable choice, he said.
The environmental impact of eating particular kinds of fish is an important matter but not so straightforward, experts say. To produce one farmed salmon, you have to feed it more than its weight in smaller fish, which leads to a net loss of fish from the sea and potential ecosystem disruption, Love said.
“It may not hurt my health, and it may not hurt your health, but on a population level, you can see some issues,” Love said.
Some farmed fish may also receive antibiotics that, if spread in the human population in large quantities, could lead to antibiotic resistance, meaning bacteria would no longer respond to these drugs, he said.
But there are also farmed fish produced in environmentally friendly situations, Rimm said. In some cases, it may take more energy to capture wild fish than to keep them in a pen, leading to a negative environmental impact.
Eating different kinds of fish is good for both your individual health and for the environment, experts say. From the health angle, it minimizes your risk of contamination from any one fish group, Jampolis said. From the environmental perspective, it would be detrimental to the ecosystem if everyone ate just one kind of fish en masse, Love s

Fish oil may stave off psychiatric illness

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 and bipolar disorder sufferers.” In fact, “roughly 5% of those on fish oil went on to develop full-blown psychosis during the study period, versus 28% of those who got psychotherapy alone.”

WebMD reported, “No other intervention, including psychiatric” medications, “has achieved as much for so long after treatment stopped.” Unlike antipsychotic medications, “fish oil pills have no serious side effects.”

Reuters noted that fish oils may be used someday to stave off or even prevent psychotic or bipolar illness as well as substance abuse disorder and depression.

You can read my other blogs about fish oil here:

Twelve Home Remedies for Migraine Headaches

I found this excellent article on home remedies for migraine headaches — which impact more women than men. Several of these I use in my practice. However, I would recommend you discuss any of the natural medications (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) with your personal physician before trying them.

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The Top 10 Natural Products of the Year

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?

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Red yeast rice, fish oil fight high cholesterol

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? Continue reading