Saturday, March 25, 2006

Omega 3 and Heart Disease

The news is telling us now that Omega 3's benefits for the heart are dubious. Please do not throw out the fish based on these articles. The present hoo-haa starts out at Reuters. Probably not enough people were dying in Iraq or Afghanistan or one of the other 'stans so they put in a neither here nor there story with a sensational headline.

Take a look at their story. Ok sum it up in one sentence. Here's our summary "Researchers think that Omega-3 is not 100% proven as a good thing for your heart but they advocate you take it". Not that you would get this from the alarmist headlines.

First of all let us consider what we do know about fish oil. We know that fish fat rich in Omega 3 is not something you can take and patent. The companies with big research budgets are not going to poke at this with a stick because it does not result in profits. As a result there is no giant sized bumper edition (with extra pull out section) study on the effects of fish fat and Omega 3. There have been a lot of smaller studies which seem to hold encouraging results.

Eskimos are almost 100% carnivorous. Ever tried planting brocolli on the snow? Even the name Eskimo is derived from a non self referential term which means "eater of raw meat" (Ojibwe term). The Eskimos themselves are divided into two groups which call themselves Inuit and Yupik. Despite only eating meat they have a very low incidence of heart disease. Also the Japanese (the other eater of raw meats) who have a diet based on fish have a very low incident of heart disease.

Excluding the general public, patients who have heart disease have been studied to yield interesting findings in prevention of sudden cardiac death.

We should consume fish oil. Having said this, the source and packaging of fish oil have to be considered as well since fish oil packaged with toxic substances will not do a person any good.

Looking at the study quoted by Reuters, it would appear that the conclusions are misguided. The study is based on researchers performing meta-analysis. They piggy back by churning data from many other studies. Such retrospective studies cannot be designed for the purposes trumpeted in the headlines and must be suspect at best.

So to all readers who have to be carnivorous, do eat like the Eskimos and enjoy a serving of fish today.

No comments: