For the Health Of It™©, Volume 2 #12: Solving the Fish Oil Puzzle: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Your Health

The other day, my brother said something like this, “I don’t know if this is bogus, or not, but I started taking fish oil and my joints don’t hurt or pop nearly as much as they used to.”  He went on to explain that he thought the noises and pains he noticed were a result of bone on bone … simply worn out joints.  I told him that was unlikely and went on the tell him that it was more likely tendonitis, arthritis, and inflammation in general and the fish oil works by reducing inflammation.  Then I offered this story.  The first time I heard about the fish oil method of relief from joint pain came indirectly from my mother.  She told me that one of Dad’s patients (a Nun, indeed) took cod liver oil in a dose of one teaspoon per day (5cc) for her joint pain and it worked for her.  Then I tried it from time to time and it worked for me.   That was over 30 years ago and the science about how it works and the risks and benefits have been emerging over the last three decades.  So, you ask, “How do I get the maximum benefit with minimal risks from dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acids?”

How to get the health benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids without the risks?

Fish (and fish oil) is good for you and mercury is bad … very bad.  So, eat Fish that has a low mercury content on a regular basis and supplement with Omega 3 Fatty Acid capsules that are from non animal sources, or are tested for mercury and have little to none of the heavy metal.  Target?  Eat salmon/fish daily and take the 2 – 3 grams per day of Omega-3 Fatty Acids (no mercury) when you can’t eat fish.

EVIDENCE and RULES

This is what we know today … for which we have evidence.  As with all Health and Health Care Behaviors, medicines, medication and medicinal foods the question boils down to this: How can I get the maximum benefit with the minimum risk for me and those in my charge?  We use the term Take The Best Care™© of yourself and those in your charge to make it clear that the responsibility goes beyond the individual (yourself) to the larger community (those in your charge), which includes, family, community and the environment at large.

That being said, with regard to Omega-3 Fatty acid consumption, it boils down to this: eat the right foods regularly and supplement when necessary.  This is a concept that works for all dietary and food supplement related matters and balance is the key to achieving the goal: Optimal Health.  “There is no question about the anti inflammatory effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids … lots of literature to support it … even in critical care … outcomes are better with supplemental use of these fats.”

This is my brother’s summary response to the information (above and below) I sent him.  “Many thanks.  I think I am Exhibit A that the effect is real, particularly since I didn’t anticipate it in the least.  I will continue with the fish oil tablets and pick up salmon when I can.”

CANNED SALMON BARGAIN:

ICY Point Pink Canned Salmon. I got it for 3 bucks per can.

REFERENCES:

This puts Mercury<>Fish<>Sustainability link in a nutshell, I think.

(Reference 1)

http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/walletcard.pdf

Pretty good summary of the issue and supply from diet.  Add Mercury information and you get the picture.

(Reference 2)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omega-3_fatty_acid

Questions and comments are always welcome.  More information is available upon request.

Have a Sweet Day 🙂

Dr. Mike

Michael F. Mascia, MD, MPH

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