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The Diet Detective Investigates

Fish Oil Supplements

Omega rich foodAre omega-3 supplements a waste of money?

After a few years in which every nutrition expert seemed to be promoting fish oil supplements as the answer to every ailment and disability on the planet – from heart disease and diabetes through to alzheimers and eczema, dyslexia and hyperactivity – suddenly in recent weeks there has been a spate of articles in the press warning that omega-3s might not be as all-powerful as was thought.

The Facts: ONE There is a very large amount of clinical evidence (i.e. the sort of evidence that counts) to show that a regular adequate intake of omega-3 fats IS very important for overall health protection and for the proper running and maintenance of our bodies from the womb to old age.

TWO There is also plenty of research to show that many of us in the Western world fall short on the amount of omega 3 fat that we get in the diet – mainly because it isn’t present in quantity in many foods that we like to eat – fish and leafy greens aren’t everyone’s first choice, it appears. Also, the Government’s Food Standards Agency doesn’t advice that we eat more than 2 – 4 portions of oily fish a week anyway, because of the pollutants it may contain.

So add those two facts together and you get the answer that omega-3s are one of the few supplements that may be truly useful (and I am not a great fan of supplements and have no contacts in the supplement industry so this is unbiased opinion).

BUT be careful which brand you buy. Some contain higher than ideal levels of toxins (as oily fish from polluted waters store heavy metals and industrial pollutants in their fatty tissue) while others are sourced from cleaner waters and are low in these toxins. One of the better brands, according to scientific tests on pollutant levels in the most popular brands of fish oil supplements which are carried out regularly, is Healthspan www.healthspan.co.uk

If you do want to increase your omega-3 intake via diet alone you will need to eat 3 portions of oily fish a week along with plenty of leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and walnuts (and/or their oils).

TIP: Store all produce high in omega-3 essential fats in cool, dark conditions and use up within a couple of months. Seeds, nuts and their oils are best eaten raw.

For more information on oily fish, safety and omega-3s, go to www.eatwell.gov.uk and key oily fish into the search box.

IF you have a question about oily fish which isn’t answered here, or a question about any other nutrition topic, ask The Diet Detective.

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