HomedietFish Is Not The Best Source Of Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish Is Not The Best Source Of Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3's and evolution- fish may not be the best of sources


Fish Is Not Necessarily The Best Source Of Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids- An Evolutionary Perspective


The building of brain tissue, unlike other body tissues, is dependent on an adequate supply of long chain omega-3 fatty acids- specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  DHA is a long chain omega-3 fatty acid that appears to have played a key role in the evolution of human intelligence[1] due to its central role in the creation of grey brain matter.[1,2,27] As a result, long chain omega-3’s- (specifically preformed DHA) is added to infant formulas today as almost every professional pediatric organization supports its role as an essential nutrient for infants.[4] In addition, we have a number of studies conducted over the past ten years that show inclusion of long chain omega-3 fatty acids in our diet being as beneficial to our health[5,6,7,8,9,10]  Abundant in the marine food chain, preformed DHA and long chain omega-3’s are  said to be relatively scarce in terrestrial food sources[11] which raises an important question; How could we, as a species, have evolved within the environmental context of the African plains[2,11,12,13,14, 15] if fish and other marine food sources were not plentiful in this part of the world? The answer goes against most of the literature published regarding optimal sources of long chain omega-3’s as fish and seafood did not become a common part of the human diet until about 20,000 years ago[16]. Considering that we began our time on the planet as humans 1.7 million years ago, it thus becomes apparent that our main source of omega-3’s must have come from the tissues of mammals and other land based foods and not from fish and other marine sources.[3,16] In this article, we take a hard look at the original sources of long chain omega-3’s and highlight that fish oils are not necessarily the best sources for optimal health.


The Role Of The Fish Industry In Promoting Fish Oils As The Best Source Of Omega-3’s

fish industry and omega-3's
While the fish industry lobby has successfully manipulated government guidelines on omega-3 sources, health claims from fish oils are yet to be fully substantiated.


One of the first questions that each of us should ask when investigating the validity of any health claim is ‘Cui bono’- or ‘who stands to gain’. In this case, the extensive efforts of the powerful American and international fish industry lobby played a significant role in the promotion of fish and fish oils as the de facto source of long chain omega-3 fatty acids here in the United States.[22] One would like to think that health claims come as a result of tried and tested scientific proofs or observations, but the reality isn’t as objective as you might like to think. In fact, qualified health claims for fish oils come as a result of decades of pressure piled upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by fish industry lobbies. Initial FDA findings only allowed seafood products to be labeled as ‘rich in omega-3’s’ but were not permitted to attribute any protection against heart disease as there was not enough objective evidence to support such claims.[21,22] In the year 2000, however in response to a major fish industry sponsored lawsuit and continued petitions, the FDA was forced to relax their stance on required scientific standards for health claims on omega-3 fish oil supplements[22], which in 2004 lead to the following ‘qualified health claim’ that brings up more questions than it answers:


‘Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease’.[17]


There is little argument against the fact that long chain omega-3 fatty acids do appear to play key roles in human development, but there is some question as to the universal effectiveness of added omega-3’s in the human diet from fish oil sources. Current data neither proves nor disproves a beneficial or a detrimental effect for subgroups of patients with specific underlying pathologies[18] while some studies have found that among certain individuals it may actually increase the likelihood of death from cardiovascular related disease.[18,19,20,45] One review concluded that while fish oils may beneficial in reducing some incidences of sudden death due to cardiac arrhythmias, fish oil supplementation might not be advisable for all patients.[18]


In spite of the many studies conducted and observations of thousands of individuals under controlled and self-reported conditions, the benefits of adding fish oils and fish sources of omega-3’s are not as clear cut as we are often lead to believe. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality- the organization responsible for clinical practice guidelines here in the United States, did not find the conclusive evidence for the addition of fish oils to the public diet that you might expect. In fact, their review of 123 studies where the amount of fish oils or omega-3 fatty acids intake was quantified as being significant found that while a higher intake increased measured levels of EPA and DHA, the only consistent benefit across the board was a reduction in triglycerides.[21] Little or no benefit was found for a variety of other cardiovascular risk factors and markers of cardiovascular disease.[21] The review, which without question has been the most comprehensive one thus far with regard to added dietary omega-3 fatty acids concluded that the optimal amounts and sources of omega-3’s are not known, nor is the effects of higher ratios of dietary omega-6 to omega 3 fatty acids[21]- an argument often put forward as a justification for increased fish oil consumption. The review ends with the statement that far more research is needed before any conclusive statements can be made, which is main reason the FDA did not allow any health claims to be made by fish and fish oil producers before being coerced into some concession as a result of lobbying pressures.

Infant formula is now fortified with omega-3's
The decision to fortify infant formula is with omega-3’s comes more from speculation than science.


The decision to include DHA in infant formula is equally controversial as research has shown that infants can synthesize long chain omega-3 fatty acids themselves from other dietary sources, especially during the last trimester and as such additional omega-3’s may not be required.[23] Some studies suggest that premature infants may benefit from direct consumption while others showed no benefit whatsoever. Blood levels of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and ARA in breast fed infants are typically higher than levels found in formula fed infants but the scientific evidence for long term benefits remain mixed.[23,24] It should be noted however that most of the studies conducted on the addition of DHA and ARA supplementation in infant formula were sponsored by the infant formula manufacturers themselves and even they were unable to provide any conclusive long term benefits.[22] Once again, and as is custom with the American public health system, pressure from formula makers forced the FDA to agree that the long chain omega-3 fatty acids are naturally occurring components of a regular diet and were thus able to add it to infant formulas without having to prove that such additions would provide any long term benefit.[22]


Understanding The Complexities Of Qualifying Omega-3 Health Benefits In An Imperfect World


What we do know from observations of epidemiological studies is that consumption of plant and marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids seem to be correlated with a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease[3,37,38,39,40,41] and reduces all-cause mortality, but whether simply adding fish or fish oils to your diet is the answer isn’t very clear. The simple truth is that we do not know as much about omega-3’s and their effects on our bodies from fish oil sources as the fish industry would like us to believe. Global recommendations to eat more fish are problematic not only from a point of view of sustainability, given today’s shrinking fish populations and the fact that aquaculture does not represent a sustainable source if it takes three pounds of menhaden to increase the weight of farmed salmon by one pound. (See Part 1 in our series on omega-3 sources.)


The problem with trying to identify any one nutrient as being responsible for major positive or adverse outcomes is that there are so many other variable that must be taken into consideration- a factor that food industry marketing conveniently overlooks. For example, a cohort study of over 11,875 children found that consumption of less than 340 grams per week of seafood during pregnancy was associated with the child being in the lowest quartile for verbal intelligence as opposed to mothers who consumed over 340 grams of seafood each week.[25] On the surface this sounds like a call for all mothers to start eating more fish but it fails to mention the reality that mothers who ate less seafood were in lower income brackets, had lower education levels and lived in less ideal conditions than the mothers who ate 340 grams of seafood. The association is correlative but not necessarily causative as it is fairly obvious when all the parameters are exposed that the long chain omega-3’s in seafood may not have been the reason for the lower test scores. All of these such associations take away from the reality that fish and seafood were not always staples in our diet and as such they might not be necessary for optimal health.


Natural Land Plant & Animal Sources of Long Chain Omega-3’s

ala content of common foods
Wild foragers such as buffalo are much higher sources of long chain omega-3’s than even grass fed beef.


Conventional nutrition studies can often produce conflicting and inconsistent data[26] but an understanding of human dietary habits during the period of our evolution and beyond by observing the practices of healthy populations in modern forging tribes can provide useful and unbiased ways of looking at dietary information. Information that is more in keeping with how we should eat as opposed to how we want to eat in our food abundant environment. One of the key questions as to how early man was able to find adequate sources of long chain omega-3 fatty acids is answered by a simple observation of what we ate at that time. Firstly, Stone Age humans and hunter-gatherer populations today consume not just muscle tissue but relished certain fatty portions of their meats that are not eaten today in our lower omega-3 environments such as brain and bone marrow.[27] While so much fish industry sponsored research is poured into marine sources the fact that the total DHA content of whole brain is 8.6mg/g which is higher than the mean value for a high value omega-3 source fish such as salmon which only yields 6.7 mg/g. Equally important is the fact that the wild animals consumed by by our ancestors and modern foragers such as deer, elk, buffalo and antelope have far higher levels of omega-3’s than grain fed livestock. [27] Grain fed beef has 2-3 times more saturated fat than game meat and 3-4 times less omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. Furthermore, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is more than twice that of game animals -An important fact since the presence of omega-6 fatty acids (LA) does appear to inhibit tissue absorption of long chain omega-3’s- especially DHA.[27]) Excessive omega-6 consumption  at the expense of omega-3 fatty acids as is common in developed countries with grain fed livestock has also been shown to possibly increase risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.[28] Even pasture fed beef, which is much lower in saturated fats and looked upon as the de facto healthy meat choice has 2-3 times less omega-3 polyunsaturated fats than wild game since muscle tissue from both grass and grain fed beef have lower concentrations of long chain omega-3’s. It makes perfect sense since a deer that forages on ferns and mosses (which are in fact high in long chain omega-3’s-especially those growing nearer to water) would have much higher concentrations of long chain polyunsaturated fats when compared to a pasture fed animal.[30,31]


Buffalo is a good source of long chain omega-3's
The long chain omega-3 content for wild game is 2-3 times higher than grass fed and grain fed beef but brain tissue contains as much as 8.6mg/g of long chain omega-3’s far in excess of what is found in fish sources.


A fundamental mistake with many so called Paleolithic dietary approaches is that it neglects the inconvenient reality that wild game and not livestock animals were staples in our diet for millions of years and that the entire carcass was eaten unlike the practice in developed countries to eat mostly muscle tissue. Thus, wild game and meats such as buffalo are far more natural sources of long chain omega-3 fatty acids, especially when brain tissue is consumed- a factor that debunks the idea that humans required marine resources in order to evolve[29]. As with any complex subject, there are still many other potential sources of long chain omega-3 fatty acids that are yet to be quantified. Hunter gatherers also consumed invertebrates, eggs, fungi and gums[29] – the omega-3 content of which has yet to be studied thanks to emphasis on marine sources. Information on wild plant foods consumed as well is lacking as there are a number of uncultivated fruits and vegetables native to East Africa that have yet been analyzed for omega-3 fatty acid content. Wild plants such as purslane,  which is the 8th most commonly distributed plant on the planet is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids of any green leafy vegetable ever examined with an exceptionally high level of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and even trace amounts of EPA and DHA- commonly found in marine sources. [30]


The Omega-3 Paradox- Omega-6 Ratios & Processed Foods
Breast milk from mothers lower in omega-3's
Breast milk from mothers in the U.S. is far lower in long chain omega-3’s when compared to the Bolivian Indians- even though they eat large amounts of grain.


Human studies have shown that the conversion of ALA to long chain omega-3’s was reduced by as much as 50% when dietary intake for LA was increased from 4.7% to 9.3% of caloric intake as a result of the competition between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids for desaturation.[32] Thus, the higher body fat reserves of omega-6 fatty acids in modern vegans and omnivores in Western societies is thought to be a major reason why average tissue concentrations of long chain omega-3’s is not as high as is found in societies that consume lower levels of LA. However, a study of the Tsimane forager-horticulturist tribes of Bolivia found that breast milk concentrations of long chain omega-3’s (AA and DHA) were significantly higher than samples taken from mothers in in the United States, even though they frequently consume LA rich plant foods such as maize.[33] Higher percentages of long chain omega-3’s was attributed by the study authors to be due to their diet of predominantly wild game and some freshwater fish but the authors did not take into account possible sources from animal brain tissue. They did acknowledge however that Amazon freshwater fishes are far lower in DHA than cold water species and that fish intake was not as frequent as among coastal populations.[33] What was interesting was that in spite of the fact that Tsimane mothers ate corn almost daily, their average breast milk ratios of omega-6 to omega-3’s was 4/1 as opposed to the American mothers whose ratios came in at 8/1. One explanation put forward is that the higher percentages of LA (and trans fats) in milk samples from American women was due to their consumption of LA rich vegetable oils and processed foods containing LA and hydrogenated oils- thus the problem may not be so much a matter of a simple need for increased omega-3’s but also an avoidance of processed LA rich oils.


Vegetarians & Long Chain Omega-3’s- No Fish But High Omega-3 Levels


One final factor to consider in the argument against fish oil sources of omega-3 fatty acids is the seeming ability of those with low to no intake of fish or long chain omega-3 fatty acids sources to be able to convert plant sourced ALA’s to long chain omega-3 fatty acids in tissue levels comparable to regular fish eaters. One study of over 14,000 vegan men and women, with no intake of dietary EPA or DHA from marine sources still had very high levels of plasma DHA and EPA. [36] As incredible as such a finding may seem it does make sense that our bodies would have evolved in such a way so as to increase conversions from plant source ALA’s to long chain omega-3’s since fish was not a staple of our diet for several million years. Male vegans in the study had only slightly lower levels of DHA than female vegans, and only slightly lower levels than fish-eaters (195 compared to 240 μmol/L plasma). Of note as well is that EPA levels were higher in male vegans than in meat-eating and fish-eating males.[36] Thus far there has only been one large population study to investigate polyunsaturated intakes and blood levels among vegans and far more research is needed as the implications of these findings are that plant and land based foods are more than sufficient sources of long chain omega-3 fatty acids. A finding that would allow for preservation of the global wild fish supply as reliance on fish and fish oils as the only source of health beneficial omega-3’s are not only unsustainable but scientifically questionable.

Not Bad For Training Only Three Days A Week!

Because it's three days a week with soul crunching intensity non stop for the past 33 years.

There's no gimmick to it and it means being uncompromisingly all in for your workouts and with your nutrition.

I don't think there's that much that special about me.

There's nothing enhanced, nothing boosted by testosterone and there weren't any special "supplements" along the way.

Just three days of blistering hard work each week and meticulous attention to what I eat.

Being 90% on point each week means you are 100% off after 10 weeks and I can't emphasize enough how much of a difference unshakeable consistency makes to your overall results.

Most of the natural athletes didn't get where they are by any genetic advantage, they just did what is so very rare- which is stick to their process 100%.

It's not easy as it's not always easy and certainly not always popular, but you owe it to yourself to see just how far you can go if you go all in!

Looking forward to seeing your results and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #fitover40 #homegym #drugfreebodybuilding #gymselfie #hometraining #naturalbodybuildingmotivation

181 25

What I Eat To Stay Lean and Keep Building Muscle All Year Round.

If there every was a "secret" to how I consistently stay in shape (and almost 20 years since my last competition) the answer would be my diet.

Diet is the deciding factor in what your body looks like and your overall performance and I want to stress that while this is a layout of the foods I eat on a daily basis, it's not a blueprint for your YOU should be eating.

What it can be is an example of what it takes to maintain a certain degree of size and muscularity at all times as a natural athlete, and also the underlying principle to how I select my foods.

Which is that I don't eat junk foods or highly processed foods and I only drink water.

(No protein shakes, ever!)

If you can start with that, there's no doubt that you will be on the right track in terms of your nutrition.

So stay away from processed foods, know that I believe in you and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

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125 10

Post workout physique check in.

The contest gets closer and closer as the sun meanders across the sky, as my contest is and always will be, did I do everything I possibly could that day to improve?

Did I train hard enough?

Did I push it enough?

The dietary part isn't an issue.

It hasn't been for many years as I always make sure that my nutrition is on point, and there's no leeway on that front.

I don't feel good when I'm not eating optimally, and I respect myself enough to not settle into a place where not feeling my best is the norm.

And to be honest, it feels really good to put my head down at the end of the day knowing that I gave it my all.

Not that I was the best or was even necessarily successful at everything that I set out to accomplish, but knowing that I gave everything nonetheless.

It's a feeling I want everyone to have.

To sleep soundly knowing that you gave it your all.

That you didn't miss an opportunity to improve on what you are passionate about, because in so doing, you experience an eagerness to do the same the next day.

It's the ultimate contest and I invite everyone to submit their application forms, as it's one of the few competitions where everyone who does the work and shows up, is in the winner's circle.

Keep striving, keep pushing and as always, Excelsior! #naturallyintense

(Thanks @indi.anna.r or taking the shot, as I know your arm was probably shaking after that workout!)

#naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #fitover40 #homegym #drugfreebodybuilding #gymselfie #hometraining #naturalbodybuildingmotivation

159 13

Motivation vs Discipline. What You Really Need To Be Successful!

I am often asked what was my motivation to keep going starting off as a skinny 125lb kid who no one believed could ever be a successful bodybuilder.

The answer is that motivation didn't have that much to do with it.

Motivation may have played a part in getting me started, but it was discipline that got me to where I wanted to be.

Motivation is fleeting and ephemeral, it's not always going to be there and on the days when you don't feel like eating right or training hard, you need a disciplined practice to see you through.

A disciplined practiced based on doing what you need to do to be successful regardless of the circumstances.

That's how I made it through all those tough times when I felt I wasn't getting anywhere, and it's what will help you as well.

So forget motivation, focus on building a disciplined practice, know that I believe in you and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

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110 27

Kevin's Ultimate Secret Six Pack Abs Tip!

If you ever wondered how I maintain a six pack all year round and have kept that six pack for decades on end, here's the secret.

This is one tip that will honestly get you on the path to a six pack.

There's no magic to it.

But if you follow this simple piece of advice, you will be able to do a lot more than get yourself a six pack, as it's a proven formula for success.

Give it a try and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

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165 18

Happy Archery Day, everyone!!!

Yeah, it's a thing and can't say how much it's my thing!

To be honest, I am a barebow shooter and almost never shoot my compound bow (the monster in my hands) but it's all really good fun!

If you haven't tried archery or are thinking about doing it again, go give it a shot (no pun intended!!!)

And as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#archery #archeryday #bowtech #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #blackandwhite #bowtech

135 19

Do You Have Good Genetics for Natural Bodybuilding?

I don't believe it's the question that needs to be asked.

Far too many, myself included, who went on to be successful natural bodybuilders would never have been the men and women you would expect to have the genetics for bodybuilding.

But we put in the work, the years, the dedication and the consistency, and so what matters isn't the question of genetics, but rather do you have the passion, the drive and the discipline to train hard and focus on your diet nonstop for years on end to realize your potential?

That's the real question, and yes, there are men and women who have great genetics for natural bodybuilding, but there are even more who would be amazing onstage but don't know it because they didn't believe enough in themselves to put in the time to see how far they could go.

So I am here to say that I believe you have it in you to do amazing things, so if it's your goal, or even if you just want to improve the way you look, stick with it and don't quit!

Know that I believe in you and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilding #nosteroids #fitnessgoals #bodytransformation #nodrugs #naturalbodybuildingtips #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuildingvideos #excelsior #fitover40 #personaltrainer #naturalbodybuildingtips #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #beleiveinyourself

157 17

Nope it's not a contest cut- it's just another day on the Path.

There are two ways to get cut, the fast way that requires going to extremes and which is inevitably temporary.

Or the Path-based way. Whereby your lifestyle and sustainable healthy practices get you there and keeps you there.

It takes time. It takes patience but it's an extremely honest endeavor.

If you put in the work and stay consistent with your training and following a processed food free and healthy diet, excellence is just a matter of time.

It takes time but as long as you draw breath, you have the time and you can do this.

So take the Path-based way and as always, Excelsior!!!

And my thanks to my son @reid_443 for snapping the shot, and the approval rating! 😂

#naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #fitover40 #homegym #drugfreebodybuilding #gymselfie #hometraining

260 32

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35. Samur G., Topcu A. & Turan S. Trans fatty acids and fatty acid composition of mature breast milk in Turkish women and their association with maternal dietís. Lipids 2009
36. Welch, Ailsa A; Subodha Shakya-Shrestha, Marleen AH Lentjes, Nicholas J Wareham, and Kay-Tee Khaw. “Dietary intake and status of n−3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in a population of fish-eating and non-fish-eating meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans and the precursor-product ratio of α-linolenic acid to long-chain n−3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: results from the EPIC-Norfolk cohort”. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010
37. Siscovick DS, Raghunathan TE, King I, et al. Dietary intake and cell membrane levels of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the risk of primary cardiac arrest. JAMA. 1995
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Kevin Richardson
Kevin Richardsonhttps://www.naturallyintense.net
Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, celebrity Personal Trainer NYC and with over 2.6 million readers of his blog, Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training, one of the top lifetime drug free bodybuilders of his time, the first International Fitness & Nutrition Consultant for UNICEF, 2020 and 8 Time Winner of the Best of Manhattan Awards for Personal Training and a world recognized authority on high intensity training. Kevin has helped thousands, from celebrities to CEO's over the past 30 years achieve their fitness goals with his 10 minute high-intensity workouts done just three times a week in conjunction with his holistic nutrition approach. You can learn more about about his diet and training services at www.naturallyintense.net

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