Certain fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, tuna and salmon are sources of DHA and EPA, two fats that are important for cell function. Eating fish, eggs or supplementing with fish oil is often recommended. However, this is really not necessary since both EPA and DHA are made by our bodies from the alpha-linolenic acid consumed in foods (like flaxseeds, walnuts and many vegetables). These two fatty acids are not listed as essential because our body can make them… only omega-6 and omega-3 are essential. People that consume trans-fat, excessive saturated fat and too many omega-6 fats from animals and polyunsaturated vegetable oils may have trouble converting essential fatty acids to DHA and EPA. But that does NOT describe you and me because we have cut down on those kinds of fats.
So is fish a health food that is necessary for us to consume regularly? A study of Japanese men showed that eating fish 4 to 5 times a week resulted in a 54% increase in the risk of prostate cancer compared to men who ate fish less than 2 times a week. Wow! That’s really interesting. Plus… a Finnish study showed that the mercury levels in the study participants resulted in a 68% increased risk of heart disease. And by the way… they related the mercury levels to the amount of fish consumed.
It seems that oils, including fish oils, are best left out of the diet. Testing fish oil samples has shown that they contain some oxidation, even before the “sell-by” date. Hmmm… doesn’t sound too fresh to me. Unfortunately, oxidized oils can increase the risk of degenerative disease. The British Medical Journal (April 2006) reported that there was no significant evidence of reduced risk of heart problems in those who took supplemental omega-3 fats.
So… it seems that we do not have to feel that we need to eat fish or take any kind of supplements to get DHA and EPA. A little extra flaxseed and lots of vegetables is sufficient.