Review: Omega fish oils, to supplement or not to supplement….

By 25. April 2014Blog, Health, Nutrition

…that is indeed the question, and one that I was discussing recently with one of my Crossfit trainers. So Sebastian and all other interested parties here is a short review of some of the publications that we have covered regarding the matter.

First of all a quick introduction, omega 3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids as the human body cannot make them and so we need to get them from other sources, mostly oily fish, but they are also present in krill, algae and nuts. Indeed, the omega 3 fatty acids in the fish came originally from algae. There are 3 types, ALA (plant source), EPA and DHA (found in marine sources). They are involved in normal growth and development and brain function.

A look through the previous blogs from our website.  Back in July last year a paper was published that claimed that men with higher amounts of omega 3 oils in their blood had a higher incidence of prostate cancer.  There were already objections to the interpretation of the data back then and 9 responses to the publication were published in the same journal. The basic message, it would seem that this interpretation of the data is not correct.

Then in October of the same year we blogged about Omega 3 keeping you young. Apparently the telomeres (a piece of DNA in the cells that get shorter as we age) of people given supplements of omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for 6 months were longer than those not given the supplement. The researchers said the test group was small and that further studies should be carried out in this area.

In the following month Omega oils were back in the journals again, this time the authors of the paper were concerned about the health claim that unsaturated fats in general lower cholesterol levels. Omega 6 which could be included in this group at best seems to have no effect or in some cases has actually been implemented in increasing the incidence of heart attacks. The authors stated that they believed the health benefits of omega 3 oils to still stand.

And in December we blogged about a publication that suggested that eating dark green vegetables increased the body’s response to omega 3 oils. The study was conducted over 6 weeks in people of African American decent. The participants were given capsules of either concentrated fish oil or a soy bean placebo. It was noticed that some participants that were given the omega 3 oil that had a low positive response also ate the least amount of green vegetables suggesting that green vegetables in combination with omega 3 is more beneficial.

As this was asked for by a sports person I should include at least one mention of omega 3 fatty acids and muscles. Back in 2011 a paper published in the journal Clinical Science looked into the effect of omega 3 fatty acids on muscle protein production in healthy young and middle aged men and women. This was because it had been shown in older people who generally lose muscle mass that it could stimulate muscle production but it had not been shown in younger healthy people. The participants in their study had increased muscle protein concentration and muscle cell size after supplementation.

There is a lot of literature out there on the subject with new papers published all the time so no doubt we will be blogging about it again in the near future.

Further reading: a small review from the University of Maryland Medical Center