Vitamin E Vitamin E


Is Fish Oil Really a Waste of Money?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

If you’ve heard on the news that you’re wasting your money taking fish oil and vitamin D, you may want to read the studies yourself, as that’s not exactly what they show. The real news is that that purified, prescription fish oil DID slash heart-related deaths among people with high triglycerides — and doctors cheered the results, reported.

The “waste of money” warning was for over-the-counter vitamins that not only may be synthetic — as opposed to pure — but also in doses too low to make a difference. And, indeed, dosage and purity WOULD make a difference in study outcomes, whether you’re taking fish oil or vitamin D. Another thing that makes a difference, whether it’s prescription or OTC, is the quality of the product — something you can get without a prescription if you are familiar with the manufacturer’s production methods and quality controls.

With fish oil, the health benefits of DHA and EPA omega-3s in fish oil are well-established. The only question, then, is how do you know that the OTC fish oil you’re taking is the right one — which is exactly what the news should be talking about, rather than headlining that you’re “wasting your money” unless you have a prescription for it. Another thing you need to know about fish oil supplements is that there are some very basic differences between plant- and marine animal-based omega-3s.

Animal-based omega-3 — found in fatty fish, fish oil and krill oil — primarily contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a long-chained PUFA consisting of 22 carbons, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which has 20 carbons. Plant-based omega-3 — found in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts and leafy greens, for example — contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a shorter-chained PUFA consisting of 18 carbons. Plant-based omega-3 is completely devoid of DHA and EPA. Therefore, you should make a note: When taking fish oil — preferably krill oil — you should avoid the plant-based supplements.

The next thing you need to know is that, if you’re comparing fish oil to krill oil, that krill oil has higher potency, and contains natural phospholipids, which makes it more readily absorbed. Krill oil also contains astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant, which makes if far less prone to oxidation, is virtually contaminant free and has a superior metabolic influence.

With vitamin D, it’s true that when studies look at dosage, no apparent benefits of vitamin D supplementation are found. However, when you look at people's blood level — the concentration of the nutrient in the body — truly dramatic effects are detected.

The problem is that people metabolize the nutrient at different rates, and while one may need a very small dose to achieve a certain blood level, another may need several times that dose. So, assessing health effects based on supplement dosage can be extremely unreliable.

To that end, your cells actually need the active form of vitamin D to gain access to the genetic blueprints stored inside, and conventional vitamin D recommendations are too low to keep you healthy or prevent disease. Actually, a compelling body of research suggests that 40 ng/mL is the cutoff for sufficiency and that 60 to 80 ng/mL is an ideal level for both health and disease prevention — and many people need more than just the 2,000 IUs a day that were used in the clinical studies.

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