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What the Fish?

What the fish?? I get it. You spend your hard-earned money on omega-3 fish oils because you hear that they are good for your health. Next minute, you see some article online stating they offer no benefit! Did you just waste your hard-earned money on a supplement that does nothing!?

Don’t be so fast to go throw away your bottle of fish oil now thinking it’s useless.

Let me explain WHY omega-3 fish oil supplementation is still critical for your health and overall wellbeing in multiple ways. Buckle up, as I’m going to get a little “sciency” here, but I promise it will all make sense in the end.

As a clinical pharmacist, I’m that guy that will always question every new health article in the media. Articles coming out with titles like, “Omega-3 supplements don’t lower heart disease risk after all”, or “Fish oil claims not supported by research”, I decided instead of just reading the article presented to me by the media source, I read the actual scientific papers related to the supposed articles.

Now here are some of the major issue with most of the actual studies that claim omega-3 supplementation provide no benefit:

1. Ignoring the high consumption of omega-6 by the study participants
Almost every single one of the studies showing no benefit with omega-3 supplements completely ignore the crucial omega-6 to omega-3 ratio consumed by the study participants. Why is this important you ask? Omega-6 oils are known to produce pro-inflammatory compounds in the body. In other words, high amounts of omega-6 consumption will put your body in an inflammatory state. Omega-3 oils are anti-inflammatory. Now consider this analogy. Let’s pretend that omega-3 oils are a team of firemen and omega-6 oils is the fire that has started on a street. The street is quickly being engulfed by fire, spreading from one house to the next. The firemen come to try take out the fire. But the fire is already raging out of control despite the best efforts of the firemen. So, what’s happening here? It’s not that the firemen (omega-3) aren’t doing their jobs, but they simply cannot compete with the out-of-control fire (omega-6). So, am I surprised these studies showed no benefit in omega-3 supplementation? Nope. This is why it’s important to be critical of some health articles you see on the media. Due to purpose of this article and the limited space, I promise I will write another article entirely on omega-6, the ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio for good health and which industrial omega-6 oils to avoid to keep this omega-3 and omega-6 balance healthy.

2. Low doses of omega-3 supplementation
Most of the studies showing no benefit of omega-3 supplementation severely under-dosed study participants.

3. Short duration of study
Some studies were of such short length that I’m not surprised that no benefit was found. Changes in health most likely do not happen overnight, so studies only lasting 6 weeks showing no benefit really provide no useful information to us as consumers.

I’ve only listed 3 due to the limited space on this article, but there are so many other factors that just goes to show there is more to the picture than what is shown to us by the media.

This is where I like to believe Nga Hua pharmacy really differs from other pharmacies. When was the last time you went out to buy omega-3 fish oil from a pharmacy and the pharmacist actually asked about your current omega-6 oil consumption? Uhh..probably never?

So once again, come in to Nga Hua pharmacy to have a korero with me and I will promise you will walk out learning something new that will put you one step closer to getting your health to thrive, not just survive.


Clinical pharmacist and co-owner of Nga Hua pharmacy


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