Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oil From the Sea

The Institute of Medicine recommendation to consume at least two servings of EPA /DHA cold water fish per week has created a business boom reminiscent of the decade old dot.com crazies.

As appreciation of the cardio, neuro and retina protective properties of the long-chain fish oil derived omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) has grown, so too have the dietary guidelines. An article in the September 2007 Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine recommended minimal intakes to either maintain the status quo (100-200 mg /day in most Western countries) or a minimum of 400-600 mg /day to lower the risk of cardiovascular or retina disease.

This science is music and money to the ears of the food fortification industry that is now targeting a vast array of packaged foods for EPA/DHA fortification. Gross overconsumption of EPA/DHA could well become a national health problem before the decade is over without government intervention in the food industry.

An article in the September Food Science and Technology Journal discusses the stability of 400 mg fish oil eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in cream-filled sandwich cookies (think Twinkie). These high glycemic cookies were packaged under vacuum or atmospheric conditions and stored for 28 days. They were not stale-they had no aftertaste and no loss of EPA and DHA during storage. What will the U.S. junk food industry try next?

So how does this new oil strike affect our wallets?

  • The pharmaceutical industry is now selling concentrated fish oil, as prescription medicine, for five times the per milligram cost of OTC concentrated EPA /DHA from fish oil.


  • Some companies are adding insignificant amounts of nutrients to their fish oil to capture disease-specific markets, such as eye care and charging excessive amounts per mg for EPA /DHA.

Too much of a good thing is definitely too much where fish oil is concerned.

Regular ingestion of reasonable amounts of Omega-3 EPA can successfully modulate the silent inflammatory process for many people. However, too much Omega-3 EPA can disrupt inflammatory process essential fatty acid (EFA) homeostasis, thereby preventing optimal inflammatory response when it's needed to spike a temp to kill off bacteria, start the clotting process if bleeding, or create swelling around a tissue injury.

Omega-3 DHA (directly metabolized from EPA) is the most abundant essential fatty acid in the brain and the retina. However, very excessive intake of DHA has been linked to increased mortality following cardiac events.

As a population, non fish eaters became DHA deficient due to cattle being taken off grass and fed grain before butchering, plus there is far less DHA in eggs in today's world due to factory farming. Unfortunately, the conversion of Omega-3 Flax Seed Oil to EPA is not dependable, therefore causing many Flax Seed Oil loving vegetarians to actually be EPA/DHA deficient.

The obvious question: What happens to future generations who will also need EPA/DHA in their diets if industry is allowed to deplete the seas of cold water fish to satisfy, yet another industry driven, perceived dependency on oil ?

9 comments:

Jenny Lee said...

How much fish oil do you recommend I take a day?

Ellen Troyer, MT MA said...

Our recommendation is to try your best to eat a serving of cold water fish at least twice a week.

We also recommend that you get at least 400-600 mgs of EPA/DHA from concentrated fish oil capsules on the days you don't eat fish.

This will provide enough of the long chain Omega-3 fatty acids required to lower the risk of developing cardiovascular, retina and brain diseases associated with the aging process.

Our ZoOmega-3 is guaranteed mercury and PCB free and each capsule includes 300 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA.

Kara D said...

I take your BioTears Oral Gel Caps for my dry eyes and ZoOmega-3, am I taking too much?

Ellen Troyer, MT MA said...

You are not taking too much, since the amount of EPA/DHA in two daily capsules of ZoOmega3 is 1000 mg and the amount of EPA/DHA in four capsules of BioTears is under 200 mgs.

An excessive amount of EPA/DHA, in our opinion would be over 3,000 mgs per day, although a number of physicians recommend far larger amounts for short term therapy.

James Waugh, MD said...

Is that why adding ZoOmega-3 to BioTears short term seems to work for a lot of difficult dry eye patients?

Ellen Troyer, MT MA said...

Hi Jim,

Great question! And you are absolutely right - but remember that Omega-3 fatty acids alone cannot produce the series one prostaglandins (PGE1s) necessary to address the inflamatory markers found in the aqueous portion of the tear film. Those particular prostaglandins are only produced through the Omega-6 GLA/DGLA conversion.

Julie said...

I'm confused. You recommend at least 400-600 mgs of EPA/DHA yet your ZoOmega-3 contains 1000 mg. Why does your capsule contain so much? Don't foods other than fish contain Omega-3. How do we make sure we are not getting too much?

Ellen Troyer, MT MA said...

I'm sorry if you misunderstood Julie.

We recommend no less than 400-600 mgs of EPA/DHA (as cold water fish, or concentrated fish oil) per day to lower the risk of most all degenerative disease. One capsule of ZoOmega-3 includes 300 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA, as does one small serving of cold water fish, so we are right on the mark.

Two capsules of ZoOmega-3 include 600 mg of EPA and 400 mg of DHA, which is the amount now recommended by most nutritional biochemists and molecular biologists and most nutrition savvy physicians for optimal vascular disease protection.

Other foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids as alpha-linolenic-acid (ALA) are a few vegetables, nuts and seeds, including Flax Seeds and Flax Seed Oil.

Unfortunately, a vast amount of new science suggests that only a very small amount of ALA actually metabolizes to Omega 3 EPA/DHA (less than 9% for men and less than 20% for women).

Therefore if you are trying to increase the amount of EPA/DHA in your diet, eating fish or taking a daily fish oil capsule or two is your best bet.

EPA & DHA is not considered excessive under 2000 mg per day - but in our opinion that could be pushing it just a bit.

Two capsules of ZoOmega-3 per day and four capsules of BioTears include a bit less than 1,200 mg of EPA/DHA, so you are well within the safe upper limit range.

Karen H said...

Thanks for writing this informative post.

My friend is taking 8-10 fish oil capsules every day because some doc told her it would keep her skin looking young.

Leave it to Americans to overdo a good thing!