Monday, March 9, 2009

No, fish oil isn't as multipurpose as's still about overall lifestyle

I am devoting this blog post to my friends who think I've gone fish oil overboard! I write and talk about fish oil so much, it seems, they've gotten the impression that maybe I've forgotten about all of the other things that determine health. One of my neighbors constantly teases me about the fact that I believe in and promote fish oil like the guy who uses Windex for everything in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Colleague Karen Siegel (Houston registered dietitian and licensed acupuncturist) sent me the following article.

Note that the recommendations at the end of this quote are the same recommendations commonly made for diabetes prevention--and you HAVE seen in this blog, that I have written on the connection between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

It's not that I think fish oil can replace a healthy lifestyle, it's that I see so many people who pretty much have the right idea, and not balancing omega-3's is the piece that keeps them from being completely on the right train.

Though I do believe fish oil is important, this article perfectly sums up how I do feel: by no means is fish oil a "bad habit eraser"! You've got to live a healthful life, and when you do that, fish oil may help decrease your health risk.

Oh, BTW, that neighbor who teases me? She told me the other day she secretly went to Costco and got the pills...and her hair and nails have started to become longer and stronger.

Dangour AD, Allen E, Elbourne D, Fletcher A, Richards M, Uauy R. Fish Consumption and Cognitive Function among Older People in the UK: Baseline Data from the Opal Study. J Nutr Health Aging. 2009;13(3):198-202.

A UK study has cast doubt on claims that eating oily fish can protect against dementia in old age.

Data from a trial of more than 800 older people initially showed that those who eat plenty of oily fish seem to have better cognitive function.

But factors such as education and mood explained most of the link.

Researchers need to clarify what, if any, benefits fish oil has on the ageing brain, they wrote in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Ageing.

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in diet as a way of preventing dementia.

It's not at all clear that healthy older people get any benefit from eating fish oil

Dr Alan Dangour, study leader
Much focus has been on omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel.

And there are biological reasons, backed by tests in the laboratory, why in theory, these fatty acids would be neuroprotective.

The latest study found a significant association between eating a couple of portions of fish a week and better scores on tests of cognitive function.

But when the researchers, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, took into account education and psychological health the association almost disappeared.


Experts advise eating a couple of portions of fish a week, with at least one being an oily fish, because there are proven benefits on the heart.

Study leader Dr Alan Dangour said claims about the benefits of oily fish in warding of dementia in older people seemed to have been oversold.

"The evidence on this has always been sporadic.

"What this shows is there is a link between people who eat oily fish and better cognitive function, but if you adjust for education and mood this relationship goes, so it's not at all clear that healthy older people get any benefit from eating fish oil."

The evidence collected by Dr Dangour was for a study due to report later this year comparing fish oil supplements with placebo.

He added that this randomised, controlled study should provide clarification.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "One of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia is by eating a Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, vegetables, grains, fish and poultry.

"However, we still do not know which components of this sort of diet help the most.

"Unfortunately this study does not add to our understanding.

"Once age, sex and education are accounted for the research does not show any significant benefit of regularly eating oily fish."

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