Can Supplements Prevent Sunburn?

Summer is here and along with summer comes sunburns, that we all hate.  We’ve been told for years to slather on the sunscreen, but still a long day at the beach on on the lake you still end up pink.  So wouldn’t it be nice if you could just pop a few pill and skip the sunburn?

Lets talk for a minute about what makes up the sun, or at least the part that causes damage and pain. Those are the ultraviolet (UV) rays. There are two types UVA and UVB:

  • UVA – These are the UV rays which cause damage to the skin. Think of UVA as UV-Aging. These cause can lead to cancer, dried out leathery skin, etc. These don’t cause the burn though.
  • UVB – These are the UV rays which cause burning, so think of UVB as UV-Burning. UVB rays also cause the conversion of cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D.

Ok, so now a bit about sunscreen. Many sunscreens just block the UVB rays, so they prevent the burning but also block the production of vitamin D, but they don’t block the UVA rays, so the rays which can damage the cells and possibly cause skin cancer get right in.  So when you shop for a sunscreen make sure it is a full spectrum sunscreen that blocks both the UVA and UVB rays.

OK, so about that magic pill that prevents sunburn.  Sadly there isn’t a pill that will totally prevent sunburn, but there are a number of vitamins that have been shown to lessen the burning. So you may still burn, but not as bad. These are:

  • Beta Caroteen – Beta Caroteen is found in high concentrations in carrots – that is what gives carrots their orange color. Many supplements will also use beta carotene as their source of vitamin A.  Your body can break down beta carotene to make vitamin A as it needs it without the risk of too much vitamin A. This, like all those that follow isn’t a morning after pill. It takes 10 to 12 weeks of daily supplementation to reduce the redness and burning.
  • Lutein and Lycopene are carotenoids that also show some protection. Lutein especially for the eyes. (Make sure your sunglasses block UV rays, not all do.)
  • Astaxanthin – This is another carotenoid that is found in krill and salmon giving them their red color. (Note only wild caught salmon have high levels of this. Farm raised salmon (often called Atlantic or Norwegian salmon) are fed feeds which don’t contain astaxanthin, so they add red dye to the salmon’s feed to make the flesh red. Yech.  This works quicker, within a week or two of daily consumption (salmon or astaxanthin supplements)
  • Coco flavanols – Yep, chocolate has been shown to reduce redness from UV exposure in women, though I bet it would work for men too. Unflortunaely eating a handful of Hershey Kisses won’t work (well maybe a bag full) but the chocolate you reach for has much more fat, sugar, and milk that actual chocolate. Instead reach for a 90-100% dark chocolate. My favorite is the Lindt 99% chocolate (hard to find in the US, but you can find the 90 and 95%)
  • Vitamin C and vitamin E – when taken together in high doses daily. One study found that 2,000 mg of vitamin C and 1,000 IU of vitamin E (as d-alpha-tocopherol – the natural form) taken daily for 8 days modestly reduced redness caused by UV light – Equivalent to SPF 2. Note that these higher doses can cause problems for some people. A top rated multi vitamin has 1,300mg of Vitamin C and 400 IU of vitamin E and this is well tolerated by most people. So take that daily for a base, then jump up to the higher levels before you head to Bali – just make sure you don’t have any side effects (common is diarrhea from vitamin C)
  • Pine bark extract (Pycnogenol®, Flavangenol®) has been found in clinical studies to significantly increase the amount of simulated UV-radiation required to cause redness and skin damage, as well as reduce measures of skin damage caused by UV exposure. It has also been found to decrease the color of age spots in healthy young women.

Some supplements like St John’s Wort and dong quai (found in some menopause supplements) can increase photosensitivity, so avoided these if you are going out in the sun.

The big fear is skin cancer. Maintaining optimal  levels of vitamin D and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancers.   This leads to the vitamin D paradox – You need sun to naturally produce vitamin D and vitamin D has been shown to reduce the incidence of many types of cancer, including skin cancers. (Here is an article about vitamin D and its role in skin cancer)  Applying a high SPF sunscreen before going in the sun blocks that production, so you lose that protection.  So go out for 20 minutes or so, then apply sunscreen.  The recommendations above may help lessen the redness and damage and help a bit when you forget to reapply sunscreen. If you’re in and out of the water all day, or sweating and wiping your face, you just forget or can’t keep reapplying sunscreen. Here is an article that explains how sunscreens work and SPF ratings.

So what do I do?  I take our USANA Essentials and Visonex daily.  These provide high levels of most of the vitamins and carotenoids above. I’m not one that tans easily and I run for an hour daily usually around noon plus all the other Colorado outdoor activities, skiing, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, etc. I live in Colorado so high altitude and lots of reflection from the snow in the winter and water in the summer. I rarely use sunscreen unless I’m out all day, then usually just one application around noon. I can’t remember the last sunburn I’ve had.

Enjoy the sun and the water this summer!


Feds to Withdraw Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Warnings

You’ve probably seen the news – the US Government is soon to remove all warnings about dietary cholesterol and saturated fat being harmful. Does that mean you can have eggs and bacon for breakfast every day and steak for dinner? Yes, sort of, if you chose your eggs, bacon, and beef properly.

Why was cholesterol demonized?

Lets take a look back at history.  Researchers back 40 years ago found that the plaque in arteries, which could cause a heart attack, had LDL cholesterol in them. So the conclusion was made that the LDL cholesterol is what caused plaque and heart attacks.  Then came Pfizer’s Lipitor and other statin drugs to reduce cholesterol and 40 years of cholesterol phobia.

Looking at just one little fact raised my doubts about this logic many years ago – That is over 50% of those people admitted to the ER for heart attacks had normal or low cholesterol levels.  So if high cholesterol caused heart attacks, then you should see very few people with low cholesterol levels having heart attacks, but that really had little to do with it.

If you also look at where the source of cholesterol in your body comes from, it isn’t so much the food you eat, but what your body makes. Cholesterol is a critical molecule in your body and if you reduced cholesterol too low you’d die.  Cholesterol is what most of your hormones, vitamin D, CoQ10, and other necessary compounds are made of.

The real culprit, which was never communicated to the public nor doctors was that it was inflammation in the arteries which oxidized, and damaged, the LDL cholesterol and made it sticky. (Oxidation is what causes a car to rust or an apple to turn brown) When it became damaged and sticky that caused it to form the plaque. So what causes inflammation? simple rule of thumb is almost anything white, so sugar, flour, rice, potatoes, etc. These foods are very quickly converted to glucose in the blood stream and this increased glucose causes the oxidation. One way to identify the bad foods is too look up their glycemic index. This is measure which indicates how quickly a food will raise your blood sugar. 0 means it doesn’t raise blood sugar at all and 100 is eating pure table sugar.  You want to stick to the low glycemic foods which which have a GI of less than 55. (an apple is 39 but a banana is 62. A baked potato is 111). This doesn’t mean that  there are a number of websites which list the GI of different foods. Here is one

Saturated Fat was Demonized too.

Another dietary change which took place a few decades ago also was the reduction of fat in foods. When you reduce or eliminate fat,  sugar was added to make it palatable.  We know sugar isn’t good, but if you tasted a fat free yogurt without sugar, you’d probably never buy it again. People were looking for that “Fat Free” banner on the label, they bought it, and it tasted good, but few turned the carton around and read the ingredients and saw how much sugar was added to make it taste good.

Healthy Omega 6 vs Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) Ratio

You also need the right balance of Omega 6 and 3 fats in your diet. The ideal ratio is 1:1. In the typical western diet that ratio 16:1 so far too much omega 6 EFA. This excess is oxidizing and causes the same oxidation of cholesterol as too much sugar.  Some people will take fish oil, or eat fish to get the healthy omega 3 EFAs, but nobody looks at omega 6.  So where does that excess of omega 6 come from?

Corn and Soy beans cause an excess of omega 6 when fed to animals (including us). So you say “Great I don’t eat corn or soy that often, so I’m good!”  Not so fast. You don’t have to eat the corn and soy, it can also come from what you eat or drink eats. Chickens, cattle, pigs, farm raised salmon, tilapia, shrimp and other farmed animals are fed a diet very high in corn and soy meal. When a cow eats this commercial diet it causes an unhealthy excess of omega 6 EFA in their flesh and milk.

When you eat that steak, egg, or drink a glass of milk you are getting a very unhealthy level of inflammatory omega 6 essential fatty acids. So eating that plate of eggs and bacon or a nice juicy steak is oxidizing that cholesterol and setting you up for a heart attack.  If you buy that Atlantic salmon fillet, look at the ingredients. It will say Salmon & food color added to the feed. Why? Because farm raised salmon, which is fed corn and soy meal, is white, not pink. Does that mean you have to go back to a kale and quinoa diet?  No. Read on.

Where to find Healthy Beef, Fish, Eggs, and Milk

So how do you find beef, fish, eggs, and milk that has a healthy 1:1 ratio of omega 3 & 6 EFAs?  Simple, go to the farm or hop on a boat.  When animals eat what they’ve eaten for thousands of years they’re healthy and when they are healthy you are healthy.  If you lived on a farm you’re cattle would graze on grass in the pasture. Chickens would scratch iStock_000002536169_ExtraSmallthe ground for seeds, grubs, insects, and anything else they can get. Pigs would eat what they could find too.  You could also hop in your boat and head out to sea, or to the lake. Salmon eat krill which gives them their natural pink color, same with other common fish, and shrimp.

Next time you go to the store look for the grass fed beef, milk from grass fed cows, wild caught fish and shrimp, and pasture raised chickens and eggs. Don’t fall for the “Free Range” label on the eggs. They are still fed corn and soy meal, but have access to the outside, but no natural foods there. They are more expensive, but it is worth the price to get real food that is good for you vs cheap unhealthy meats.

Blood Tests for Oxidation

The level of oxidation in your body can change daily based on what you eat and do. There are two tests though which can measure a couple markers of inflammation:

  • CRP – C-Reactive Protein. You want this to be less than 1.0.  They’ll say normal is 1.0 to 3.0, but that is what the average of the population, you want to be better than average!
  • Homocysteine – This is a highly reactive molecule which tears into the artery walls like sandpaper, then if you have oxidized LDL cholesterol it will take hold in these tears. You want this to be less than 9.0 and ideally less than 7.0. B12 and Folate help to lower homocysteine.

Don’t Buy Organic

Well, do buy organic produce, but organic milk, beef, eggs, etc are just fed organic soy and corn. Yes they won’t have hormones  and other additives and far superior to conventionally raised, but they will have far too much of the inflammatory omega 6 EFA and will lead to the oxidation of cholesterol.  Sometimes you can find organic grass fed beef and pasture raised eggs and chickens, then that is the best of the best, but if cattle are roaming the open fields eating the naturally growing grasses, and the fields aren’t being sprayed with pesticides, then you are good. When in season try to find locally raised beef, chicken, and pork where you know the farmer and see the fields.


There is nothing harmful with cholesterol, it is the oxidation of that harmless cholesterol which makes it deadly. To live a healthy life you can ignore the cholesterol levels, but you must reduce those foods which lead to the oxidation of the cholesterol. So eliminate sugar, flour, rice, bread, potatoes, etc and eat only grass fed beef and milk, pasture raised chickens and eggs, and only fresh caught fish.



Medical Daily
Washington Post
Omega 3 vs 6 fatty acids

Why Grass Fed Meat is better than Conventional Grain Fed

When you think of cattle you picture them roaming open fields eating grasses, sedges, bushes, clovers and other plants and leaves they find around them. Like the California Cheese ads, they are “Happy Cows”

Happy Grass Fed Cows

The best quality grass-fed cattle and sheep will be fed like this before leaving the farm, while some farms “finish” their  animals with grain for a period of time before they leave the farm.  This technique is used to “fatten” the animal up.  Notice I said they feed their animals grains to fatten them up!!!

Ask your butcher if the meat they supply is “finished off” or grass fed to the end?  Ideally we want to consume meat that is grass-fed to the end, and here’s why…

Feed-lot grain fed animals are usually kept in restricted areas and fed an all grain diet.  This may include wheat, corn and soy, and these are usually GMO grains.  These animals are highly stressed and sometimes the farm and pen conditions can be atrocious.

So what is the big deal about grass-fed or grain-fed?!?

Grains are full of omega-6. Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory in out bodies, promoting inflammation, this inflammation is what drives disease.  When an animal is fed grain, it takes on this omega-6 load into its tissues and fat, and the we eats this.

While high omega-6 is not ideal, the main health issue for consumers is that grain-fed meat is extremely low in omega-3.

Seeking as much omega-3 from real food sources is one of the principal aims in creating vibrant health.  Therefore eating grain-fed animals is not providing us with the power punching anti-inflammatory omega-3 content that our bodies require, but a bucket load of  pro-inflammation omega-6 instead.

Grass-fed meat is much higher in omega-3.

It is also higher in B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin K and minerals including magnesium, calcium and selenium.

Additionally, the living conditions of free-range grass-fed animals is of a higher standard than fed-lot grain-fed animals.  A better farming environment, means less stress for these animals, which is better for both the animal and the consumer.

Grass-fed is substantially better for your health than grain-fed.  When you switch to grass-fed for you and your family, you are also aiding in the demand for free-range farming methods which is better for the animals and the industry.

Organic beef is still  probably grain fed, just it is organic grain and not pesticide laden GMO grains, so it will be a bit healthier, but will still have the far higher proportion of inflammatory omega-6 oils.

The same also applies to chickens, fish, and other farmed animals. They are fed a diet or predominantly grains which yields the same excessive balance of omega-6. Even salmon who many buy for the health benefits of omega-3 oils, are grain fed and lacking the beneficial omega-3 oils.

So when you go to the store, look for grass fed, free range, or wild caught.

ADHD symptoms related to low omega-3 levels in children

Salmon fillet


Two recent studies examined the possible correlation between omega-3 levels and symptoms and behaviors associated with ADHD. Children with ADHD were more likely to have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and a correlation between low omega-3 levels and anti-social behavior and emotional regulation was also reported.

What that translates to is that children with low omega-3 levels are more prone to ADHD and anti-social behaviors. Other studies have shown that when these children are given omega-3 oils that the anti-social and ADHD behaviors improve, or go away.

So why do children have low levels of Omega-3 oils, and in increasing numbers? Look at the foods we eat. Half a century ago cattle and chickens ate what they have eaten for eons, grass for cattle, and seeds and grubs for poultry, and fish came from the sea. But now cattle, poultry, and much of the seafood you buy is fed a diet of corn, soy, and other grains. These fatten them up quickly, but they are also very low in the anti-inflammatory omega-3 and much higher in the inflammatory omega-6 oils.

So with the natural soruces of healthy omega-3 oils no longer in our diets there is a deficiency of omega-3 oil in your body. If you look at your brain it is 70% fats and much of that is omega-3s. So no wonder the deficiency reveals itself in mental problems. Another common ailment is postpartum depression some mothers suffer. As the baby grows it takes what it needs from the mother. If the mother’s diet is low in omega-3, then she will take omega-3 from her brain to help the baby, and the result is postpartum depression.

Here are the details:

Previous research has reported abnormal plasma fatty acid profiles in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and has suggested some symptoms of ADHD may be benefited with omega-3 supplementation.

Recently the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids, published two related research studies looking at the possible connection between low blood levels omega-3 acids and emotional health in children.

The aim of the first study was to determine whether ADHD children have abnormal plasma omega-3 levels, and whether ADHD symptoms and associated behaviors are correlated with omega-3 levels. Subjects included 29 male children diagnosed with ADHD and 43 who were not. Plasma DHA was lower in ADHD children compared to controls. Callous-unemotional (CU) traits were found to be significantly inversely related to both EPA and total omega-3s in the group with ADHD. The results showed that anti-social and callous-unemotional traits in ADHD may be associated with lower omega-3 levels.

It is known that ADHD is often associated with poor emotion regulation. In a second study researchers looked at the differences between ADHD and non-ADHD children in omega 3 and 6 fatty acid plasma levels and the potential relationship between them and emotion-elicited event-related potentials (ERPs).

Thirty-one children with ADHD and 32 without were compared in their plasma omega-3/6 levels and corresponding ERPs during an emotion processing task. Children with ADHD had lower average omega-3/6 levels, and ERP abnormalities were significantly associated with lower omega-3 levels in the ADHD group.The results of this study show for the first time that lower omega-3 fatty acids are associated with compromised emotion processing in children with ADHD.

These studies show for the first time that low omega-3 fatty acid levels may be related to poorer emotion regulation and anti-social and callous unemotional traits in male children and adolescents.

Gow RV et al. Omega-3 fatty acids are inversely related to callous and unemotional traits in adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013 Jun;88(6):411-8.

Gow RV et al. Omega-3 fatty acids are related to abnormal emotion processing in adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013 Jun;88(6):419-29.

Recent Omega-3 Fish Oil and Prostate Cancer Study is Seriously Flawed.

Earlier this week every major news media was running a report claiming that a recent study proved that high intakes of fish oil supplements caused a 71% increase in prostate cancer. Then they usually brought on their resident MD who confirmed that yes this appeared to be true and they should stop taking all fish oil supplements. The problem is I doubt any of them read the study, they just repeated the headline.

Over the years there have been over 2,000 studies which have looked at fish oil and cancer. Most found that fish oil lowers the risk and death rate for many types of cancer, including prostate. So lets take a closer look at the study and you’ll quickly see how flawed it is and really seems to just an error filled attempt to slander the fish oil supplement industry.

The study they pulled data from was the abandoned SELECT trail that ran between 2001 and 2004 looking at the effects of selenium and Vitamin E on cancer prevention. The study was not designed to look at omega 3 levels,  so the study was not looking at fish oil in relation to prostate cancer, but they pulled data from this study anyways.

Here is a summary of the errors they made.

  • The participates in the study had their blood lipid (fat) levels checked when they signed up for the study. It was the one and only test the 834 participates had of their blood lipid and omega-3 levels.
  • The study included sick and healthy people, but no indication of who may be taking fish oil supplement. It is common to find that when someone becomes ill that then they will start trying different alternative treatments, like fish oil, to help combat their disease.
  • Every man in this study already had prostate cancer
  • The study jumps to the conclusion that since fish oil supplements are so commonly taken that they could have contributed to the increase, yet no data to support that
  • The test only measured the percentage of omega-3 oil compared to total blood lipids. They never looked at the actual amount of omega-3 fats in the blood.
  • There were no questions about dietary or supplement use. Nor were there questions of when the last piece of fish was eaten or fish oil, krill oil, or flax seed oil supplement was taken. This makes sense as the original study wasn’t looking at omega-3, but only selenium and vitamin-E
  • the difference between the blood levels of omega-3 was only 0.2% between the high and the low.  This is statistically an insignificant difference in omega-3 levels. (High was 4.66% vs 4.48% for the low)
  • If the findings of the study were true, then you should find epidemic prostate cancer in countries and areas where fatty fish consumption is high like the Scandinavian countries, Japan and much of Asia, but prostrate cancer is low in these areas.
  • The statistical model they used (Cox proportional hazards) doesn’t apply to a single measurement vs a later outcome. This statistical model is designed to look at a long term daily use of a drug, food, supplement vs the outcome. Had an appropriate statistical method been used the outcome could have been completely different.
  • Even with the statical model they used, the difference between the omega-3 fatty acids was NOT statistically significant.
  • The same researcher, Brasky, had another study in 2011 which didn’t show any correlation between omega-3 and prostate cancer.
  • They cited another study by Chavarro in 2007 that showed a very strong benefit of fish oil sources of omega-3 in protecting against prostate cancer.
  • There was no control group in this study. The original study which was abandoned did have a control group, but none in the data they pulled.
  • The overall levels of fish oil found were low, so it’s likely they were NOT supplementing.
  • It is known that fat is the fuel of prostate cancer, and since this study was done in the U.K. where a lot of fish and chips are eaten is it possible that the fish oil was coming from fried fish and that those people with prostate cancer had higher fats in their diet and that that was the true link to prostate cancer- but none of this information is available in the study data.

Other factors to consider:

  • A recent study my Szymanski in 2010 showed a large reduction in late stage or fatal prostate cancer.
  • Several other studies, Lietzman, 2004 and Terry 2001, showed in large populations that increased omega-3 consumption correlated to a reduction in prostate cancer.
  • A recent study by Zheng in 2013 looking at over 500,000 participants and 16,000 incidence of breast cancer found that each 0.1g increase in omega-3 daily consumption correlated to a 5% decrease in risk of breast cancer.  So the average fish oil supplement is 1,000 mg, or 1.0 g, so that would be a 50% reduction in breast cancer risk.
  • The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute. Many will argue this, but the pharmaceutical and health care industry can not afford a cure for cancer. It is a multi billion dollar industry and if cancer were cured think of the drug companies, hospitals, oncologist, etc who would be out of business. So the health care industries and especially the pharmaceutical companies will fund studies which are geared to discredit what does work, but they can’t make money on.

In summary, this study should never have been published and should have been rejected. I suspect though that as quickly and powerfully that it came out in the media that there was a real PR push behind it – Someone wanted to damage the supplement industry and they jumped to the conclusion that fish oil supplements were the cause when the study never even disclosed if a single person even took supplments of any kind, at fatty fish, etc.

Here is the study which is making the headlines

Download the full study here Fatty acids and prostate cancer JNCI Brasky July 2013.pdf

Here is a critical critique by a professor of Radiation Oncology department at the Harvard Medical School Click Here



Omega-3 supplementation improves working memory in young adults

There have been many studies which have looked at the effect of Omega-3 (Fish oil) on the brains of older individuals in hopes of reversing failing memory or preventing further memory loss. Many of these have been very promising. A more exciting recent study just published in the Journal PLOS One on October 3rd found that Omega-3 oils can also improve the working memory of young adults between 18 and 25.

We normally assume that young adults between 18 and 25 are at the peak of their mental capabilities, it is only downhill from there (as I’ve seen over several decades).  What this study found though is that the working mental abilities of these people at their peak can be improved over their baseline.

The amount of improvement they experienced correlated with the amount of omega-3 in their blood plasma and it also correlated with the amount of omega-3 in their plasma before they began the 6 month study. So in theory, up to a level, the more omega-3 you consume, they better your working memory.

The test they used to measure this is called the “n-back test”  This is where you are shown a sequence of pictures, letters, words, etc. and have to respond (click a button) when the current picture is the same as a picture you were shown n- pictures before.  Here is a simple example where you click on the picture when it matches the picture 2 before.  so it may show a bird, ball, bike, cake, bird, cake. So when it showed the cake the second time you click on the picture.  It gets challenging after a while.

So what does this mean to you and I?

  • If you are expecting, get plenty of fish oil. That developing baby is going to take what it needs, and it needs lots of omega-3 oils. If it isn’t in your diet it will take it from your stores – which is the mothers brain. This is suspected to be one of the main causes of the postpartum blues.
  • Make sure your children are getting a high quality fish oil from a very early age onwards. I seriously doubt a typical US child or teenager can get the recommended amount of fish oil from their diet – and no, fried fish sticks don’t count. It needs to be fresh cold water fish like salmon. So  have them supplement as soon as they start solid foods.
  • For young adults and adults, keep it up.  Even if you grew up on McDonalds and pizza you can start giving your brain what it has been needing – you’ll feel smarter for that.
  • If you are starting to experience more and more senior moments, well start on the fish oil. I can’t say it will prevent or reverse dementia or alzheimer’s, but it will surely help.

Omega-3 and Heart Health

Intakes of omega-3 exceeding levels consumed by the general US population may significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease, suggests a new study with Yup’ik Eskimos.
High levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA(docosahexaenoic acid) were associated with lower levels of triglycerides, as well as higher levels of HDL cholesterol, according to data from 357 Yup’ik Eskimos published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Raised levels of the fatty acids were also associated with decreased levels of markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), which is produced in the liver and is a known marker for inflammation. Increased levels of CRP are a good predictor for the onset of both type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.CVD causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and is reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169 billion ($202 billion) per year.

The study of omega-3 intakes in inuits is nothing new. The first reports of the heart health benefits of the marine fatty acids were reported in the early 1970s by Jørn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The young Danes sought to understand how the Greenland Eskimos, or Inuit as they prefer to be called, could eat a high fat diet and still have one of the lowest death rates from cardiovascular disease on the planet.

Despite the precedent of study in these populations, the new research, led by Zeina Makhoul from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, claims that: “Few studies have examined the associations of with biomarkers of chronic disease risk in populations with high intakes”.

In an attempt to fill this knowledge gap, they analysed blood levels of EPA and DHA in red blood cells of in a cross-section of 357 Yup’ik Eskimos.

Data showed EPA and DHA represented an average 2.8 and 6.8 percent, respectively, of the total fatty acid content of red blood cells.

In addition to the links between EPA and DHA levels and triglycerides and HDL, increased levels of DHA were positively with levels of LDL and total cholesterol, said the researchers.

While a link between EPA/DHA and CRP were reported, Makhoul and her co-workers noted that the link was stronger when EPA concentrations excessed 3 percent of fatty acids in the cells, and when DHA levels exceeded 7 percent.

“Increasing EPA and DHA intakes to amounts well above those consumed by the general US population may have strong beneficial effects on chronic disease risk,” they concluded.

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28820
“Associations of very high intakes of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids with biomarkers of chronic disease risk among Yup’ik Eskimos”
Authros: Z. Makhoul, A.R. Kristal, R. Gulati, B. Luick, A. Bersamin, B. Boyer, G.V. Mohatt

Fish Oil for Strength

A recent study of women in their 60’s suggests that taking fish oil when strength-training leads to greater improvements in strength than training alone. Women who took fish oil were not only stronger but had a greater functional capacity, such as being able to rise faster from a chair.

A small study in Brazil looked at the potential benefit of fish oil on strength training in older individuals, based on the fact that omega-3’s play a role in the plasma membrane and cell function of muscles (Rodacki, Am J Clin Nutr 2012). Forty-five mostly sedentary women in their mid-60s were given two doses a day of a gram of fish oil containing 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA. After twelve weeks of supervised lower-body resistance-training (3 times per week), the strength of those taking the fish oil had improved more than those who did not supplement. Functional capacity (e.g., the speed of rising from a chair) also increased more among those who took fish oil. There was no improvement in the strength of women who took fish oil without strength training, and taking fish oil for two months before training started did not confer added benefit. is an independent testing organization who tests all types of supplements for quality, potency, contamination, etc. Below is what they had to say about fish oil quality:

Quality Concerns and What CL Tested for:
Because omega-3 fatty acids are obtained from natural sources, levels in supplements can vary, depending on the source and method of processing.

Contamination has also been an issue, because fish can accumulate toxins such as mercury, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Mercury can damage the nervous system — particularly in a fetus. Dioxins and PCBs may be carcinogenic at low levels of exposure over time and may have other deleterious effects.

The freshness of the oil is also an important consideration because rancid fish oils can have an extremely unpleasant odor and taste. While you can sometimes determine this yourself if you take fish oil directly as a liquid, it can be masked by added flavors and not readily detected if you use a softgel and other encapsulated product. There may be safety considerations with rancid fish oils due to a variety of compounds produced, some of which are odorless, such as peroxides. A study commissioned by the government of Norway (where fish oil supplement use is extremely high) concluded there would be some health concern related to the regular consumption of oxidized (rancid) fish/marine oils, particularly in regards to the gastrointestinal tract, but there is not enough data to determine the risk (The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety, 2011). The study explained that the amount of spoilage and contamination in a supplement depends on the raw materials and processes of extraction, refining, concentration, encapsulation, storage and transportation. However, it saw no significant risk of contamination by microorganisms, proteins, lysophospholipids, cholesterol, and trans-fats.

Additionally, some capsules are enteric-coated and are expected to release the oil after the stomach to theoretically reduce fishy aftertaste or burp. If they release too soon they lose that potential benefit. If they release too late, the oil may not get absorbed.

Neither the FDA nor any other federal or state agency routinely tests fish or marine oil supplements for quality prior to sale., as part of its mission to independently evaluate products that affect health, wellness, and nutrition, purchased many dietary supplements sold in the U.S. claiming to contain EPA and/or DHA and tested them for their levels of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA and, if listed, ALA), mercury, lead, PCBs, and signs of decomposition. Enteric-coated capsules were tested to see if they properly released their ingredients. One product was additionally tested for dioxins at the request of its manufacturer. Among the products purchased and tested, the majority was for use by people and a few were for use by pets. Most of the supplements were softgel capsules or liquids.

What CL Found:
Among the 24 products that selected for review, only 17 passed quality testing, meeting requirements for freshness and purity, and containing their claimed amounts omega-3 fatty acids. Seven (7) products failed to pass testing due to having less omega-3 than listed, spoilage, contamination, or problems with the enteric coating.

To insure you’re taking a quality fish oil product make sure it is manufactured to pharmaceutical good manufacturing practices (GMP) standards by a company which has been NSF certified as complying with pharmaceutical GMPs. Some companies claim their products are “Pharmaceutical Grade”, but this is only marketing as there is no definition of pharmaceutical grade for fish oil.

Questionable Fish Oil Supplement Quality

Consumer Reports recently looked at 15 different brands of fish oil supplements. Overall they all contained the labeled quantities of EPA and DHA, the beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids. They did find problems though:

The shortfalls the magazine noted include:
  • Four of the products had at least one sample with PCB levels that could require a warning label under a California consumer law
  • One product had “elevated levels of compounds that indicate spoilage”
  • Two samples of another supplement failed a test for pills with enteric coatings, suggesting the coatings might dissolve more quickly than intended, leaving a fishy aftertaste
Consumer Labs has also reviewed fish oil supplements in the past and found traces of not only PCB, but also lead and mercury. Consumer reports looked at the allowed levels of lead and mercury, if they were detected, but levels were deemed safe, then they got the OK mark. The problem is that lead and mercury are highly toxic and accumulate in your body, so any amount is bad.

A couple of years ago the state of California issued notices to four large supplement manufactures that their products contained levels of PCB that was deemed unsafe by the state and that their products didn’t contain the “Prop 65” warning. This says that this product is known to contain known cancer causing ingredients.  

Most manufactures use the cheapest source of fish oils, that comes from the waste parts, like livers, of commercial fish like tuna, shark, salmon, etc. These are large fish and have lived many years accumulating these toxins. Even with purification the toxics end up in the product. A friend is an ER doctor. She had a young woman come in displaying the symptoms of heavy metal poisoning. They did tests and she had toxic levels of mercury in her system.  After searching, they found that the fish oil she was taking was the source. She was taking a large amount of fish oil for medical reasons and this name brand supplement may have been under the legal limits taking the label amount, but taking a larger amount put her in the hospital. The problem with mercury and lead is that it accumulates and is very hard to get out of your system.

The fish oil I use and recommend is sourced from very small young fish, such as anchovies, minnows, etc, so they haven’t been in the ocean long enough to accumulate much, if any of these toxins. In tests of the raw, un purified oil it less than 1/10 of the allowable levels, so perfectly fine  for any supplement. But my manufacture then puts it through a double molecular distillation. The end result is a product with is 99.9999999% pure – You can’t get any purer.  They also manufacture to pharmaceutical manufacturing standards, far above the requirements for supplements. This assures that what is on the label is in the capsule and what isn’t on the label isn’t.

Fish oil is very helpful for many conditions from heart disease to postpartum depression to ADHD.

 A century ago cattle grazed on grass, and chickens, pigs, and fish ate what they’d naturally eaten for thousands of years. In that case their meat, milk, and eggs were naturally high in the healthy Omega-3 oils, so we didn’t need to supplement as much. But today cattle, fish, etc are raised in pens and fed an unnatural diet of corn and soy. This disrupts their bodies and causes very low levels of Omega 3 oil and too high of levels of Omega-6. When we eat/drink these we end up putting our bodies into a state of inflammation which causes a whole range of problems from heart disease, cancer, arthritis, etc.  Even organic beef, milk, and eggs only mean they’ve been fed organic corn and soy.  Because of this we must supplement with Omega-3 fish oil, and we need to insure we are getting the best available. To choose the least expensive product on the shelf is potentially putting yourself at risk in other ways.


Omega-3 Fish Oil looks promising in Osteoarthritus prevention and treatment.

A study published in the September, 2011 issue of the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, British researchers report the results of an animal experiment which found that omega-3 fatty acids reduced many of the signs of osteoarthritis. “This study is the first to look at both cartilage and subchondral bone changes with increased dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids,”

They compared the effect of a standard high omega-6 diet containing corn oil vs. a diet enhanced with fish oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, over a 20 week period after which cartilage, bone and blood factors were examined for signs of the disease.

Among the arthritis-prone animals given omega-3, the majority of disease indicators were reduced in comparison with animals that received diets that did not contain fish oil. “There was strong evidence that omega-3 influences the biochemistry of the disease, and therefore not only helps prevent disease, but also slows its progression, potentially controlling established osteoarthritis,”

Most diets in the developed world are lacking in omega-3, with modern diets having up to 30 times too much omega-6 and too little omega-3. Taking omega-3 will help redress this imbalance and may positively contribute to a range of other health problems such as heart disease and colitis.

When animals such as cattle, chickens, salmon, etc. are allowed to eat their normal diets such as then their flesh, milk, and eggs have much more omega-3 vs omega-6. But when they are fed a diet of mainly corn, soy, and grains, which are a a very un-natural diet for these animals, then the amount of omega-3 fatty acids drops and the omega-6 greatly increase.

Because of this you should always eat grass fed beef and buffalo and wild caught fish, especially salmon and shrimp.

Here is some disgusting trivia about farm raise salmon. Look carefully at the ingredients or the back of the  package and you’ll see that coloring is added to the farm raised salmon to make it pink. It is the krill in the wild that gives the salmon its pink color and it’s high omega-6. Grain fed farm raised salmon are white if they don’t color them. Another clue is if it is advertised as “Atlantic Salmon”  That is most often farm raised.

You must also be careful when purchasing fish oil supplements. Most companies use internal organs from larger, older, fish like shark, tuna, etc.  These fish have lived a long time and have accumulated a lot of mercury, PCB, and other toxins.  Look for a company which uses small fish like minnows and anchovies for the fish oil. These fish have accumulated very little, if any, toxins.  The product I use and recommend only uses small fish and then puts it through a double molecular distillation. The end result is a fish oil which is the purest fish oil available and over 99.999999% pure.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Reduce High Blood Pressure

The August, 2011 issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine published the findings of American researchers of a reduction in the incidence of high blood pressure in men and women who consumed higher amounts of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish. While the cardiovascular benefits of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (which include EPA and DHA) are well known, the current research sought to determine potential interactions with the body’s levels of selenium and mercury, elements that also occur in fish.

The current study involved 4,508 men and women enrolled in 1985 in the ongoing Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study. Dr Ka He of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and colleagues utilized responses to dietary questionnaires conducted upon enrollment and at the seven and twenty year follow-up examinations to determine average omega-3 fatty acid intake. Blood pressure was measured at all six follow-up visits, and incidences of high blood pressure or initiation of antihypertensive medication were noted. Selenium and mercury levels were determined by measuring the amounts contained in toenail clippings collected in 1987.

Dr He’s team found a 35 percent lower adjusted risk of developing hypertension among men and women whose EPA and DHA levels were among the top 25 percent in comparison with those whose intake was among the lowest fourth. When the fatty acids were separately evaluated, DHA was associated with the greatest protective effect. The benefit for omega-3 fatty acids appeared to be greater among those with higher selenium and lower mercury levels.

“To the best of our knowledge, no study has investigated three-way interactions of selenium, mercury and long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in relation to incidence of hypertension,” the authors write. “The possible mechanisms explaining the modification of selenium and mercury on the antihypertensive effect of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may lie in that both selenium and mercury are somehow involved in the process of oxidative stress and cardiac function through the same pathway by which long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids regulate blood pressure.”

“Additional studies are warranted to elucidate the complex interactions amongst selenium, mercury and long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, three important components in fish, in terms of hypertension prevention,” they conclude.

Salmon is one of the best crouches of omega-3 fatty acid, but not all salmon is equal.  You want to only consume wild caught salmon. Most of what you find in stores and restaurants is farm raised. The difference is that salmon obtain the omega-3 oil from their main food source, krill. Krill also give the wild salmon their characteristic pin/orange color. Farm raised salmon on the other hand are raised in pens in near the short or in bays. The are fed corn, soy, and things you don’t want to know about. Farm raised salmon is white, so they add dye to the fish to make them look like real salmon. In farm raised salmon, often called Atlantic Salmon, the omega-3 oil levels are much lower.

Another options is fish oil capsules. Caution is necessary here as well. Most fish oil comes from large fish and usually from the organs and liver.  These large fish  are older and higher up the food chain, so they accumulate the mercury, PCB, and other toxins.  Some very popular commercial brands of fish oil were fined in California because they contained dangerous levels of PCB and didn’t have California’s Prop-65 warning on them.  A friend is a ER doctor and she had a young woman come into the ER with what turned out to be mercury poisoning. After investigation it turned out that she was taking several fish oil capsules she’d purchased at a big box store. They had so much mercury that with here taking a higher dosage, it gave her mercury poisoning.

The fish oil I take and recommend comes from small young fish such as anchovies, sardines, etc.  The raw oil has less than 1/100th the amount of mercury allowed by the FDA. Then it goes through a double molecular distillation and the final product is 99.99999999% mercury free. You can’t get a purer fish oil. They also add lemon oil so you don’t have a fishy after taste, intact we give it to kids by just having them crew up the gel cap, and they love the lemon taste. Then they just spit out the gel cap.

Contact me if you ‘d like more information on the one I recommend.

Omega-3 fatty acids protect against the development of obesity-related disease

An article published online on March 23, 2011 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals a protective effect for high omega-3 fatty acid intake against the development of diseases related to obesity, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

For the current study, Zeina Makhoul, PhD and her colleagues at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in collaboration with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, evaluated data from 330 Yup’ik Eskimos. Omega-3 fatty acid intake among the Yup’iks averages twenty times higher than most Americans.

Triglycerides, glucose, insulin, leptin and C-reactive protein (CRP, a marker of inflammation) were measured in the participants’ blood samples, and dietary questionnaire responses were analyzed for the intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from such sources as salmon, sardines and other fatty fish. Among subjects with lower blood levels of EPA and DHA, having a high body mass index was correlated with high triglycerides and C-reactive protein, both of which are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and possibly diabetes. “These results mimic those found in populations living in the Lower 48 who have similarly low blood levels of EPA and DHA,” senior author Alan Kristal, DrPH reported. “However, the new finding was that obesity did not increase these risk factors among study participants with high blood levels of omega-3 fats.”

“Because Yup’ik Eskimos have a traditional diet that includes large amounts of fatty fish and have a prevalence of overweight or obesity that is similar to that of the general U.S. population, this offered a unique opportunity to study whether omega-3 fats change the association between obesity and chronic disease risk,” stated Dr Makhoul, who is a postdoctoral researcher in the Cancer Prevention Program of the Public Health Sciences Division at the Fred Hutchinson Center. “Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons. It appeared that high intakes of omega-3-rich seafood protected Yup’ik Eskimos from some of the harmful effects of obesity.”

Although the prevalence of being overweight among the study population is similar to that of most Americans, their rate of diabetes is only half as high. “While genetic, lifestyle and dietary factors may account for this difference, it is reasonable to ask, based on our findings, whether the lower prevalence of diabetes in this population might be attributed, at least in part, to their high consumption of omega-3-rich fish,” Dr Makhoul speculated.

The researchers recommend that a clinical trial be conducted to help confirm whether increased omega-3 fatty acids reduce obesity’s effect on triglycerides and inflammation. “If the results of such a trial were positive, it would strongly suggest that omega-3 fats could help prevent obesity-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes,” Dr Makhoul concluded.

If you eat salmon make sure it is wild caught salmon. This is natural salmon which has lived in the ocean and eaten the normal salmon’s diet which contributes to the high omega-3 fats.  Unfortunately what you’ll usually find in the grocery store and at most restaurants is farm raised salmon. These fish have been raised in shallow ponds and fed corn, soy, and occasionally slaughter house leftovers.  This diet results in much lower levels of omega-3 fats and far too high levels of the inflammatory omega-6 fats.  If you look at the label it will say Atlantic Salmon or farm raised. You may also notice that the ingredients are: Salmon & pink food coloring! Yes, farm raised salmon is white, they then dye it the pink/orange salmon color.

The easiest way to increase your omeag-3 intake is through supplements.  Caution is needed here too. Many manufactures will used the oil from large, older, warm water fish.  These will accumulate much more mercury and PCB than smaller, younger, cold water fish.  Also make sure they are manufactured to pharmaceutical GMP standards. My Omega-3 supplement uses exclusively small young fish and then the oil goes through a double molecular distillation process to insure its purity and it is free from any contaminants.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Improve Outcomes in Pregnancy

Several studies in the US and Europe demonstrat that higher intakes of omega-3 fats from fish oil are associated with a reduced risk of depressive symptoms in the postnatal period.  These same studies also show improvement in the cognitive development of their offspring. Researchers are always trying to find out exactly what is responsible for these positive effects.  A study reported in the October 20, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looked at whether DHA was the most important nutrient.  They studied over 2400 pregnant women in Australia and followed their pregnancies and postpartum recovery.  These researchers concluded that their was no difference in outcomes whether the mothers consumed DHA fish oil capsules or vegetable oil capsules that also contained omega3 fatty acids.  The conclusion is that fact that pregnant mothers should be taking omega-3 fatty acids in supplementation during their pregnancy; however, it does not matter if they are fish oil capsules or vegetable oil liquid or capsules.

DHA (fish oil) improves stroke recovery

An article published online on November 4, 2010 in the journal Translational Stroke Research reports a neuroprotective effect for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) if given within 5 hours following ischemic stroke. Ischemic stroke is caused by the blockage of blood flow to the brain as a result of a clot or plaque in the arteries. Damage to the area surrounding the site of the blockage becomes irreversible within a few hours without the reestablishment of blood flow and the administration of therapies that protect against inflammation and free radical formation.

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence Dr Nicolas Bazan and his associates induced stroke in rats by occluding the middle cerebral artery for two hours. In a preliminary experiment, the animals were divided to receive DHA intravenously 3, 4, 5 or 6 hours following cerebral artery occlusion, or saline 3 hours post-stroke. Behavioral tests were conducted during the occlusion and 1, 2, 3 and 7 days following the procedure, followed by examination of the brain. A second experiment involved the administration of DHA 3 hours after the occlusion and the assessment of brain damage 1, 3 and 7 days later by magnetic resonance imaging. In a third experiment, the rats were given DHA or saline 3 hours after stroke onset, after which their brains were examined for the presence of neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1), a substance for which DHA is a precursor, that has cell-protective and anti-inflammatory effects.

The first experiment found a reduction in neurologic deficits in rats that received DHA compared with saline treated rats, even when DHA was administered 5 hours after the onset of stroke. Treatment with DHA reduced total infarct volume by 40 percent when given 3 hours after stroke, by 66 percent when given 4 hours later and by 59 percent when administered after 5 hours. In the study involving the use of MRI, DHA treatment was associated with smaller infarcts which were indistinguishable from normal tissues by the seventh day post-stroke. The third experiment revealed increased NPD1 synthesis in the area surrounding the infarct in the DHA treated group compared to animals that received saline.

The findings help identify a possible treatment for stroke as well quantify the time limit of its effectiveness. “We are just now beginning to understand the significant impact of omega-3 essential fatty acids on stroke,” Dr Bazan stated. “There is no simple solution just yet, but each new discovery brings us closer to defeating stroke and other debilitating neurodegenerative diseases.”

“We are in an unprecedented time, from a public health point of view, in regards to tackling stroke and other neurodegenerative disorders,” he observed. “Stroke is an outright attack on the nervous system, and each year stroke kills over 150,000 Americans. Truly for the first time, translational research and the clinics are poised to converge in their public health efforts to combat stroke. From a therapeutic point of view, we can now see a light at the end of the tunnel. What we need now is for the political and societal views on stroke to converge in the same way that the research laboratories and hospitals are now doing. This would be a major step forward in fighting this disease.”


Is there any nutritional difference between wild-caught and farm-raised fish? Is one type better for me than the other?

From the The George Mateljan Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests, is a new force for change to help make a healthier you and a healthier world. www.whfoods,com


From both a nutritional and environmental impact perspective, farmed fish are far inferior to their wild counterparts:
  • Despite being much fattier, farmed fish provide less usable beneficial omega 3 fats than wild fish.
  • Due to the feedlot conditions of aquafarming, farm-raised fish are doused with antibiotics and exposed to more concentrated pesticides than their wild kin. Farmed salmon, in addition, are given a salmon-colored dye in their feed, without which, their flesh would be an unappetizing grey color.
  • Aquafarming also raises a number of environmental concerns, the most important of which may be its negative impact on wild salmon. It has now been established that sea lice from farms kill up to 95% of juvenile wild salmon that migrate past them.(Krkosek M, Lewis MA. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.)

Nutritional Differences

Omega 3 Fat Content
FDA statistics on the nutritional content (protein and fat-ratios) of farm versus wild salmon show that:
  • The fat content of farmed salmon is excessively high–30-35% by weight.
  • Wild salmon have a 20% higher protein content and a 20% lower fat content than farm-raised salmon.
  • Farm-raised fish contain much higher amounts of pro-inflammatory omega 6 fats than wild fish.
These unfortunate statistics are confirmed in a recent (1988-1990) study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to compare the nutrient profiles of the leading species of wild and cultivated fish and shellfish. Three species of fish that contain beneficial omega 3 fats were included: catfish, rainbow trout, and coho salmon.
Farm-raised Fish are Fattier
In all three species, the farm-raised fish were fattier. Not surprising since farm-raised fish do not spend their lives vigorously swimming through cold ocean waters or leaping up rocky streams. Marine couch potatoes, they circle lazily in crowded pens fattening up on pellets of fish chow.
In each of the species evaluated by the USDA, the farm-raised fish were found to contain more total fat than their wild counterparts. For rainbow trout, the difference in total fat (5.4g/100g in wild trout vs. 4.6 g/100g in cultivated trout) was the smallest, while cultivated catfish had nearly five times as much fat as wild (11.3g/100 g in cultivated vs. 2.3 g/100g in wild). Farm-raised coho salmon had approximately 2.7 times the total fat as wild samples.
Cultivated catfish were the worst, with 5 times the fat content of their wild counterparts. Plus, although the farm-raised catfish, rainbow trout and coho salmon contained as much or even more omega-3 fatty acids as their wild equivalents, in proportion to the amount of omega-6 fats they also contained, they actually provided less usable omega-3s.
Farm-raised Fish Provide Less Usable Omega-3 Fats
The reason for this apparent discrepancy is that both omega 3 and omega 6 fats use the same enzymes for conversion into the forms in which they are active in the body. The same elongase and desaturase enzymes that convert omega-3 fats into their beneficial anti-inflammatory forms (the series 3 prostaglandins and the less inflammatory thromboxanesand leukotriennes) also convert omega-6 fats into their pro-inflammatory forms (the series 2 prostaglandins and the pro-inflammatory thromboxanes and leukotrienes). So, when a food is eaten that contains high amounts of omega 6s in proportion to its content of omega 3s, the omega-6 fats use up the available conversion enzymes to produce pro-inflammatory compounds while preventing the manufacture of anti-inflammatory substances from omega-3s, even when these beneficial fats are present.
Farm-raised Fish Contain More Pro-inflammatory Omega-6 Fats
In all three types of fish, the amount of omega 6 fats was substantially higher in farm-raised compared to wild fish. Cultivated trout, in particular, had much higher levels of one type of omega 6 fat called linoleic acid than wild trout (14% in farm-raised compared to 5% in wild samples). The total of all types of omega 6 fats found in cultivated fish was twice the level found in the wild samples (14% vs 7%, respectively).
Wild Fish Provide More Omega-3 Fats
In all three species evaluated, the wild fish were found to have a higher proportion of omega-3 fats in comparison to omega 6 fats than the cultivated fish. The wild coho were not only much lower in overall fat content, but also were found to have 33% more omega 3 fatty acids than their farm-raised counterparts. Omega 3s accounted for 29% of the fats in wild coho versus 19% of the fats in cultivated coho. Rainbow trout showed similar proportions in fatty acid content; wild trout contained approximately 33% more omega 3s than cultivated trout, however both cultivated and wild trout did have much lower amounts of omega 6 fats than the other types of fish.
Antibiotic and Pesticide Use
Disease and parasites, which would normally exist in relatively low levels in fish scattered around the oceans, can run rampant in densely packed oceanic feedlots. To survive, farmed fish are vaccinated as small fry. Later, they are given antibiotics or pesticides to ward off infection.
Sea lice, in particular, are a problem. In a recent L.A. Times story, Alexandra Morton, an independent biologist and critic of salmon farms, is quoted as beginning to see sea lice in 2001 when a fisherman brought her two baby pink salmon covered with them. Examining more than 700 baby pink salmon around farms, she found that 78 percent were covered with a fatal load of sea lice while juvenile salmon she netted farther from the farms were largely lice-free.
While salmon farmers have discounted Morton’s concerns saying that sea lice are also found in the wild, at the first sign of an outbreak, they add the pesticide emamectin benzoate to the feed. According to officials, the use of pesticides should pose no problem for consumers since Canadian rules demand that pesticide use be stopped 25 days before harvest to ensure all residues are flushed from the fish.
Scientists in the United States are far more concerned about two preliminary studies-one in British Columbia and one in Great Britain-both of which showed farmed salmon accumulate more cancer-causing PCBs and toxic dioxins than wild salmon.
The reason for this pesticide concentration is the salmon feed. Pesticides, including those now outlawed in the United States, have circulated into the ocean where they are absorbed by marine life and accumulate in their fat, which is distilled into the concentrated fish oil that is a major ingredient in salmon feed. Salmon feed contains higher concentrations of fish oil-extracted from sardines, anchovies and other ground-up fish-than wild salmon normally consume. Scientists in the U.S. are currently trying to determine the extent of the pesticide contamination in farmed salmon and what levels are safe for human consumption.
Research on this issue published July 30, 2003, by the Environmental Working Group, indicates that levels of carcinogenic chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in farmed salmon purchased from U.S. grocery stores are so much higher than levels of PCBs found in wild salmon that they pose an increased risk for cancer. PCBs have been banned in the US for use in all but completely closed areas since 1979, but they persist in the environment and end up in animal fat.
When farmed salmon from U.S. grocery stores was tested, the farmed salmon, which contains up to twice the fat of wild salmon, was found to contain 16 times the PCBs found in wild salmon, 4 times the levels in beef, and 3.4 times the levels found in other seafood. Other studies done in Canada, Ireland and Britain have produced similar findings.(September 8, 2003)

Flame Retardants: Another Reason to Avoid Farmed Salmon

Flame-retardant additives used widely in electronics and furniture are appearing in increasing amounts in fish, and farmed salmon contain significantly higher levels of these polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) compounds than wild salmon, according to research published in the August 11, 2004 issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

PBDEs are endocrine disrupters that have been shown to have reproductive toxicity, and are also suspected to play a role in cancer formation. As with other toxins, it is thought that farm-raised salmon contain higher PBDE levels than wild due to the “salmon chow,” a mixture of ground fish and oil, they are fed.

The authors of this new study, Ronald Hites of Indiana University and colleagues, analyzed the same group of 700 wild and farmed salmon collected from around the world from which the data was drawn for their initial research on other contaminants in salmon, which was published in Science in January 2004.

As was the case with the 14 contaminants described in the earlier report-which included pesticides such as toxaphene and dieldrin-the researchers found the highest levels of PBDEs, on average, in farm-raised salmon from Europe. But while European farmed salmon had the highest levels, farmed North American salmon came next with significantly higher amounts of PBDEs than were found in farmed salmon from Chile, which, in turn, were higher than the average levels seen in wild salmon.

In both farmed and wild salmon, approximately 50% of the total PBDEs were in the form of one compound: brominated diphenyl ether (BDE) 47. This chemical is associated with the Penta formulation used in polyurethane foam in furniture, which, together with another formulation known as Octa, has been banned in Europe and is being discontinued in the United States. Unfortunately, (BDE) 47 can also be derived from the breakdown of the Deca formulation, which is extensively used in Europe with no plans to discontinue its use either there or in the U.S.

Researchers both in Europe and the U.S. think the problem is not just in the “salmon chow”, but the environment as a whole and that PBDEs are probably reaching the open ocean and getting into the marine food web through atmospheric deposition.

To underscore this point, Ake Bergman of Stockholm University’s department of environmental chemistry, one of the first scientists to present evidence that PBDEs were bioaccumulating in humans, says he has found the PBDE levels in wild European salmon are on a par with those Hites has reported for farmed European salmon.

And the environmental contamination is not limited to Europe. Wild chinook salmon from British Columbia were found to have the highest levels of PBDE contamination of any of the salmon Hites tested. He thinks this may be due to the chinooks’ tendency to feed higher in the food chain throughout their adult life, eating mainly fish, unlike other salmon species that tend to consume more invertebrates and plankton.

On the other hand, wild Alaskan Chinook tested in Hites’ study contained significantly lower PBDE levels, suggesting that the waters the wild chinook inhabit are more contaminated.

Surprisingly, the PBDE content patterns seen in the world’s salmon do not match up with the levels found in people; samples of blood and fat from North Americans contain levels 10 times higher, on average, than Europeans, another reason to think some other source of exposure is also at work. Bergman thinks the high U.S. levels are due to inhalation of these substances.

What you can do: Beginning September 2004, U.S. supermarkets are required to label salmon as farmed or wild. We suggest that you choose wild, rather than farmed salmon, and if purchasing chinook salmon, choose Alaskan chinook.(October 10, 2004)

Synthetic Pigment Colors Flesh Pink
In the wild, salmon absorb carotenoids from eating pink krill. On the aquafarm, their rich pink hue is supplied by canthaxanthin, a synthetic pigment manufactured by Hoffman-La Roche. Fish farmers can choose just what shade of peach their fish will display from the pharmaceutical company’s trademarked SalmoFan, a color swatch similar to those you’d find in a paint store. Without help from Hoffman LaRoche, the flesh of farmed salmon would be a pale halibut grey.
European health officials have debated whether the canthaxanthin added to the feed to give farmed salmon their pink hue poses any human health risk. Canthaxanthin was linked to retinal damage in people when taken as a sunless tanning pill, leading the British to ban its use as a tanning agent. (In the U.S., it’s still available.)
As for its use in animal feed, European health officials have debated whether the canthaxanthin added to the feed to give farmed salmon their pink hue poses any human health risk. The European Commission Scientific Committee on Animal Nutrition (SCAN) issued a warning several years ago about the pigment and urged the industry to find an alternative. In 2002, SCAN reviewed the maximum levels of canthaxanthin in fish feeds and determined that the allowable level of 80 milligrams of canthaxanthin per kilogram in feed was too high, and that consumers who ate large amounts of salmon were likely to exceed the Acceptable Daily Intake of 0.03 milligrams per kilogram human body weight. In 1997, the EU’s Scientific Committee on Food recognized a link between canthaxanthin intake and retinal problems, so in April 2002, SCAN suggested lowering the level of canthaxanthin to 25 milligrams per kilogram in feed for salmonids (baby salmon). To date, no government has banned canthaxanthin from animal feed.
Canthaxanthin was linked to retinal damage in people when taken as a sunless tanning pill, leading the British to ban its use as a tanning agent. (In the U.S., it’s still available.) Consumed In high amounts, canthaxanthin can produce an accumulation of pigments in the retina of the eye and adversely affect sight.

Environmental Impact of Farm-raised Fish

A Threat to Small Commercial Fisheries
Salmon farmed in open pen nets are now the source of 50% of the world’s salmon (hatchery fish account for about 30%, and wild fish provide the remaining 20%). Flooding the market with fish-farm salmon has resulted in a drop in the fisherman’s asking price for wild salmon-a price decrease that has forced many small fishing boats off the water.
Polluting the Immediate Environment
Aquafarms, called “floating pig farms,” by Daniel Pauly, professor of fisheries at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, put a significant strain upon their surrounding environment. According to Pauly, “They consume a tremendous amount of highly concentrated protein pellets and they make a terrific mess.”
Uneaten feed and fish waste blankets the sea floor beneath these farms, a breeding ground for bacteria that consume oxygen vital to shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures. A good sized salmon farm produces an amount of excrement equivalent to the sewage of a city of 10,000 people.
Polluting the Food Chain
Sulfa drugs and tetracycline are used to prevent infectious disease epidemics in the dense aquafarm populations are added to food pellet mixes along with, in farm-raised salmon, the orange dye canthaxanthin, to color their otherwise grey flesh. These food additives drift to the ocean bottom below the open net pens where they are invariably recycled into our food stream.
A Threat to Wild Fish
Pesticides fed to the fish and toxic copper sulfate used to keep nets free of algae are building up in sea-floor sediments. Antibiotic use has resulted in the development of resistant strains that can infect not only farm-raised but wild fish as they swim past. Sea lice that infest captive fish beset wild salmon as they swim past on their migration to the ocean.
Perhaps the most serious concern is a problem fish farms were meant to alleviate: the depletion of marine life from over-fishing. Salmon aquafarming increases the depletion because captive salmon, unlike vegetarian catfish which thrive on grains, are carnivores and must be fed fish during the 2-3 year period when they are raised to a marketable size. To produce one pound of farmed salmon, 2.4 to 4 pounds of wild sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring and other fish must be ground up to render the oil and meal that is compressed into pellets of salmon chow.
Similar to the raising of cattle, farming fish creates a problematic redistribution of protein in the food system. Removing such immense amounts of small prey fish from an ecosystem can significantly upset its balance. According to Rosamond L. Naylor, an agricultural economist at Stanford’s Center for Environmental Science and Policy, “We are not taking strain off wild fisheries. We are adding to it. This cannot be sustained forever.”
Salmon Farms Kill Wild Salmon

New research, conducted by PhD. student Martin Krkosek and colleagues from the University of Alberta, Canada, has established that sea lice from farms kill up to 95% of juvenile wild salmon that migrate past them.

Adult salmon are the primary hosts of sea lice. In natural conditions, adults are located far offshore when the juveniles are migrating out to sea, but fish farms put adult salmon in pens along the migration routes of juveniles, producing a cloud of sea lice through which the juveniles must migrate. Since juveniles are only one to two inches long, it takes just one or two sea lice to kill a juvenile pink or chum salmon.

The University of Alberta team concentrated on 3 migration routes along the Broughton Archipelago in British Columbia, counting sea lice on 14,000 juvenile salmon as they migrated past 7 farms along the 80 km route, and conducted mortality experiments with more than 3,000 fish.

They found an increasing number of salmon were killed over the migration season, from 9% in early spring when the sea lice population was low to 95% cent in late spring when the sea lice population was higher.

“The work is of an impeccably high standard, and will be very difficult to refute,” said Dr. Andy Dobson, a Princeton University epidemiologist specializing in wildlife diseases.
“Everyone knows that only a small fraction of juvenile salmon survive to return as adults,” said study co-author Dr. Mark Lewis. “The fish-farm sea lice are reducing that fraction even more.”

The study’s implications may be severe for wild salmon. “Even the best case scenario of an additional 10% mortality from farm-origin sea lice could push a fish stock into the red zone,” said biologist Dr. John Volpe, a study co-author at the University of Victoria.
“The debate is over,” said study co-author Alexandra Morton, a biologist with the Raincoast Research Society. “This paper brings our understanding of farm-origin sea lice and Pacific wild salmon to the point where we know there is a clear severe impact.”
Although the study was conducted in British Columbia, the results apply globally. “This study really raises the question of whether we can have native salmon and large scale aquaculture — as it is currently practiced — in the same place,” said Dr. Ransom Myers, a fisheries biologist at Dalhousie University. The Alberta scientists are concerned that many people may be consuming farmed fish under the false impression that they are conserving wild fish, which they say is not the case.

A Threat to Other Marine Life
Other reported environmental impacts from salmon aquaculture include seabirds ensnared in protective netting and sea lions shot for preying on penned fish. Penned salmon also directly threaten their wild counterparts, preying on migrating smolts (immature wild salmon) as they journey to the sea and competing for the krill and herring that nourish wild fish before their final journey home to their spawning grounds. Escapes of farm fish also create problems by competing with wild fish for habitat, spawning grounds and food sources. (About 1 million Atlantic’s have escaped through holes in nets from storm-wracked farms in the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound)
A Threat to Biodiversity
The interbreeding of wild and farm stocks also poses a threat of dilution to the wild salmon gene pool.
Biologists fear these invaders will out-compete Pacific salmon and trout for food and territory, hastening the demise of the native fish. An Atlantic salmon takeover could knock nature’s balance out of whack and turn a healthy, diverse marine habitat into one dominated by a single invasive species.
Recently, Aqua Bounty Farms Inc., of Waltham, Mass., has begun seeking U.S. and Canadian approval to alter genes to produce a growth hormone that could shave a year off the usual 2.5 to three years it takes to raise a market-size fish. The prospect of genetically modified salmon that can grow six times faster than normal fish has heightened anxiety that these “frankenfish” will escape and pose an even greater danger to native species than do the Atlantic salmon.
A Possible Contributor to Antibiotic Resistance
Rearing fish in such high densities present problems. Infectious disease outbreaks pose financial threats to operators so vaccines and antibiotics are often used to prevent potential epidemics. Sulfa drugs and tetracycline are often added to food pellet mixes as well as canthaxanthin (an orange dye) to impart a rich red-orange color to an otherwise pale gray flesh. Antibiotics are also given to speed growth and increase profits.
In some of the more progressive salmon-rearing operations, fish farmers are raising their Chinook and other species in closed, floating pens so that antibiotics and other wastes can be filtered from the water before it’s released back into the environment.
In the majority of aquafarms, however, these drugs and additives, which quickly build up in the sediment, -will invariably find their way into our food stream. In a paper published in 2002, Bent Halling-Sørensen and his colleagues at the Royal Danish School of Pharmacy noted that one such growth-promoting antibiotic-oxytetracycline-has been found in the sediment of fish-farming sites at concentrations of up to 4.9 milligrams per kilogram. These scientists are concerned that “Antibiotic resistance in sediment bacteria are often found in locations with fish farms”-and may play a growing role in the development of antibiotic resistant germs generally. Should their fears be true, aquafaming may be eroding the efficacy of life-saving drugs, argues Stuart Levy, the director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at the Tufts Medical School in Boston.
Which type of wild salmon should I purchase? Which is best, both for me and for the environment?
When buying salmon, we suggest that you ask for line-caught Alaskan fish first. The healthiest populations and habitats exist in Alaska. In fact, due to the successful efforts of conserving and protecting wild salmon habitats, the Alaska Salmon Fishery recently received the Marine Stewardship Council’s label for sustainability.
Fresh-caught, wild salmon is available nearly eight months of the year, with high quality “frozen at sea” (FAS) line-caught fish available during the interim. The Marine Stewardship Council’s labels are designed to guide consumers to species that are not being over-harvested.
Plus, in a recent blind taste test hosted by Chefs Collaborative in May 2000, at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, wild Alaskan Coho salmon, frozen at sea, ranked first in flavor, texture and aroma.. Wild Oregon Chinook (also called King) salmon, fresh, came in a close second.
One caveat: Fresh “Atlantic” salmon is generally farm-raised-the name refers to the species, not the fish’s origin.

Essential Fatty Acid Ratios in Wild and Farmed Fish

100 grams (3.5 ounces fresh filet of: Total Omega 3 Fats Total Omega 6 Fats Ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 Fats*
Wild Coho Salmon 0.92 grams .06 grams 15.3
Farmed Coho Salmon 1.42 grams 0.46 grams 3.1
Wild Rainbow Trout .77 grams .33 grams 2.3
Farmed Rainbow Trout 1.00 grams .71 grams 1.4
Wild Channel Catfish .29 grams .24 grams 1.2
Farmed Channel Catfish .37 grams 1.56 grams .2
*The higher the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats, the more able the body is to use the omega 3 fats. A lower ratio means that the enzymes that convert these fats into the forms in which they are active in the body are more likely to be used up by the omega 6 fats.
Table Reference:
Nettleton JA. (2000). Fatty Acids in Cultivated and Wild Fish. Presented paper, International Institute of Fisheries, Economics and Trade (IIFET), IIFET 2000 Conference: Microbehavior and Macroresults. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, July 10-14, 2000.
Some Differences in Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals between Wild and Farmed and Fish
Contaminant Farmed Wild Type of Fish
Tributyltin (pesticide, used to keep barnacles and algae off the paint used on hulls of ships 39 micrograms 28 micrograms mussels
Dibutyltin 26 micrograms (maximum observed amount) 4 micrograms (maximum observed amount mussels
PCBs (symthetic coolants 146-460 ppb salmon
Table References:
Amodio-Cocchieri, R.; Cirillo, T.; Amorena, M.; Cavaliere, M.; Lucisano, A., and Del Prete, U. Alkyltins in farmed fish and shellfish. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2000 May; 51(3):147-51.
Jacobs, M. N.; Covaci, A., and Schepens, P. Investigation of selected persistent organic pollutants in farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), salmon aquaculture feed, and fish oil components of the feed. Environ Sci Technol 2002 Jul 1; 36(13):2797-805.
Rueda, F. M.; Hernandez, M. D.; Egea, M. A.; Aguado, F.; Garcia, B., and Martinez, F. J. Differences in tissue fatty acid composition between reared and wild sharpsnout sea bream, Diplodus puntazzo (Cetti, 1777). Br J Nutr. 2001 Nov; 86(5):617-22.
Adler J. The Great Salmon Debate, Newsweek, October 28, 2002
Nettleton JA. (2000). Fatty Acids in Cultivated and Wild Fish. Presented paper, International Institute of Fisheries, Economics and Trade (IIFET), IIFET 2000 Conference: Microbehavior and Macroresults. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, July 10-14, 2000.
Analysis of PCBs in Farmed versus Wild Salmon. Environmental Working Group, July 30, 2003.
Betts K. Salmon flame retardant research raises new questions.Science News Environmental Science and Technology, August 11, 2004.
Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services, Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2000.
George R, Bhopal R. Fat composition of free living and farmed sea species: implications for human diet and sea-farming techniques, Br. Food J. 97:19-22, 1995.
Harvey D., Aquaculture outlook, in Aquaculture Outlook, Economic Research Service, U.S. Dept. Agriculture: Washington, DC, October, 1999.
Hites RA, Foran JA, Carpenter DO, Hamilton MC, Knuth BA, Schwager SJ. Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon. Science. 2004 Jan 9;303(5655):226-9.
Krkosek M, Lewis MA, Morton A, Frazer LN, Volpe JP. Epizootics of wild fish induced by farm fish. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Oct 17;103(42):15506-10. Epub 2006 Oct 4.
Nettleton, J.A. and Exler, J., Nutrients in wild and farmed fish and shellfish, J. Food Sci. 57: 257-260, 1992.
Simopoulos, A.P., Leaf, A. and Salem, N. Jr., Essentiality of and Recommended Dietary Intakes for Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Ann. Nutr. Metab. 43:127-130, 1999.
van Vliet T. and Katan M.B., Lower ratio of n-3 to n-6 fatty acids in cultured than wild fish, Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 51:1-2, 1990.
Weiss K. Fish farms become feedlots of the sea. L. A. Times, Dec. 9, 2002.

Recent Fish Oil Research Flawed

Med Page Today had the sensational headline which read “Fish Oil Claims May be Snake Oil“. This is a journal whoes main audiance is physicians.  Click here to see the article

If you take a look at much of the medical research aimed at nutritional supplements they attempt to treat supplements like a drug. In this particular they took 900 70+ year olds and measured their cognitive status. Then gave half the group fish oil and the other half a placebo for two years then measured the improvement, if any, in their cognitive abilities.  This sounds good, but Fish Oil helps to prevent cognitive decline, it doesn’t restore it once it is gone. 

Numerous other studies have taken the same approach of taking a group of people who are/have suffered a disease or degenerative condition then give supplements to see if they reverse it, which it usually doesn’t.  Closest analogy I can think of is changing the oil in your car. You could easily prove that changing the oil ever 3,000 miles will prevent engine wear and add years to your car’s engines life. But what these studies attempt to do is take an engine where the oil is seldom changed and has seized up and has suffered extensive damage. Then they give the car a fresh oil change and expect the damage to be reversed. Fresh oil wont repair the damage, it may slow further damage, but the damage which has been done is done.

There is extensive research which has proved that fish oil can prevent or delay many conditions, but this study is an attempt to discredit all the positive research. 

So in summary, take your fish oil and preserve your heart and mental health. One caution though is to make sure you take a pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement. There are a good number of fish oil supplements which have measurable or dangerous levels of PCB, mercury, lead, and other contaminants.

Grain-Fed versus Grass-Fed Animal Products

Over the last decade there has been much debate about the consumption of factory-farmed, grain-fed beef versus free-range, grass-fed beef. Many factors such as health risks and benefits, quality, nutrition and safety play a major role in this debate. Some think that grass-fed beef is ecologically and ethically better than livestock that is fattened in feedlots. Others say that grain-fed beef is tenderer and tastes significantly better than grass-fed beef. A majority of consumers, on the other hand, believe that beef is beef; however, studies have shown that an animal’s diet can have a major influence on the nutritional content of its products.
The Problem with Grain-Fed Animal Products
As the mass production of meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products has proven to be more convenient and profitable for farmers, factory farming (or feedlot farming) has become increasingly popular over the last 40 years. Small family-owned farms throughout the nation have been replaced by large feedlots and confinement facilities that are capable of producing year-round supplies of meat, chicken, eggs, and dairy products at a decent price. But the benefits of increased production and profit often come at the cost of quality and safety. According to Eat Wild (a Web site dedicated to educating consumers about the benefits of grass farming), factory farms and feedlots often pose these problems:
  • Lower Nutritional Value: Meat and dairy products from animals that have had their diets switched from grass to grain often have lower nutritional value. Studies have shown that meat from animals raised in feedlots often contain more total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories. Products from grain-fed animals also contain less vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Unnatural Diets: Animals that are raised in feedlots are given diets that are specifically designed to fatten them up, which help the farm boost productivity and lower costs. Genetically modified grain and soy are the main components of these animals’ diets. To cut costs even more, animal feed may also contain by-products such as municipal garbage, stale pastry, chicken feathers and candy.
  • Stress on the Animals: Cud-chewing animals such as cows, goats, buffalo and sheep are designed to eat fibrous grasses, plants and shrubs. When they are fed starchy, low fiber grain a number of problems can arise. Subacute acidosis is a very common condition that affects cattle. This condition causes cattle to kick at their bellies, stop eating feed and begin to eat dirt. These animals are often given chemical additives along with a constant, low-level dose of antibiotics to prevent reactions from becoming fatal. When the antibiotics are overused in the feedlots, bacteria become resistant to them. When humans consume cattle that were fed these antibiotics, they often become infected with the new, disease-resistant bacteria, which means there are fewer medications available to treat them.
  • Cages Create Problems: When animals are raised in cages (including chickens, turkey, and pigs), it can create even more problems. When confined, these animals cannot practice their normal behaviors such as rooting, grazing and roosting. Often times there isn’t even enough room for all of the animals to sit down at one time. Research has found that meat and eggs from these animals are often lower in a number of important vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Ground and Water Pollution: When animals are raised in confinement, they deposit large amounts of manure in small spaces. The right thing for the farmers to do is to collect and transport this manure far away from the area; however, this can be a very expensive task. More increasingly, farmers collect the manure and to cut costs, dump it as close to the feedlot as possible. As a result, the soil becomes over packed with nutrients, which can lead to ground and water pollution.
Benefits of Eating Grass-Fed Animal Products
Grass-fed farming or ranching involves raising livestock on open pasture – free to roam about. There is no caging or confinement for these animals, and their diet consists of natural grasses, legumes and plants. These animals are free of antibiotics, steroids, hormones, pesticides and other foreign substances. Research has shown that grass-fed animals may be safer than food from conventionally-raised animals. According to a study published in the Journal of Animal Science in 2002, grass-fed beef may offer these benefits:
  • Lower in Fat and Calories: Meat from grass-fed cattle, sheep and bison is lower in total fat. Lean meats may have as much as one-third the fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed animal. Grass-fed beef can have the same amount of fat as skinless chicken breast, wild deer or elk. Consuming lean beef can also help lower LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) levels. Because it is lower in fat, grass-fed beef is also lower in calories. Fat has approximately nine calories per gram, so the more fat a cut has, the greater number of calories it will have. Even fatty cuts of grass-fed beef are lower in fat and calories than beef from grain-fed cattle.
  • More Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Grass-fed animals can contain as much as two-to-four times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed animals. Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that are essential to our health (they are “good” fats). One reason grass-fed animals are full of these good fats is because omega-3s are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass are omega-3s. For more information on omega-3 fatty acids, click here .
  • More Vitamins: Studies have shown that grass-fed beef can have as much as four times more vitamin E than grain-fed beef.Grass-fed beef even contain twice as much vitamin E as grain-fed beef that are given vitamin E supplements!
  • Good Source of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Products from grass-fed animals are the richest known source of conjugated linoeic acid (CLA), which is another type of good fat. CLA is stored in fat cells and has been shown to reduce cancer risks in humans. Grass-fed animals contain as much as three-to-five times more CLA than grain-fed animals.
SourcesJ Animal Sci 80(5): 1202-11, 2002

You will seldom find grass fed beef in the store, even Whole Foods, but if you do a quick google search you can find a large number of small farms who raise and sell free range grass fed beef and will ship it to your door.

Very high omega-3 intakes linked to big health benefits

Intakes of omega-3 exceeding levels consumed by the general US population may significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease, suggests a new study with Yup’ik Eskimos.

High levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA(docosahexaenoic acid) were associated with lower levels of triglycerides, as well as higher levels of HDL cholesterol, according to data from 357 Yup’ik Eskimos published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Raised levels of the fatty acids were also associated with decreased levels of markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), which is produced in the liver and is a known marker for inflammation. Increased levels of CRP are a good predictor for the onset of both type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.CVD causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and is reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169 billion ($202 billion) per year.

The study of omega-3 intakes in inuits is nothing new. The first reports of the heart health benefits of the marine fatty acids were reported in the early 1970s by Jørn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The young Danes sought to understand how the Greenland Eskimos, or Inuit as they prefer to be called, could eat a high fat diet and still have one of the lowest death rates from cardiovascular disease on the planet.

Despite the precedent of study in these populations, the new research, led by Zeina Makhoul from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, claims that: “Few studies have examined the associations of with biomarkers of chronic disease risk in populations with high intakes”.

In an attempt to fill this knowledge gap, they analysed blood levels of EPA and DHA in red blood cells of in a cross-section of 357 Yup’ik Eskimos.

Data showed EPA and DHA represented an average 2.8 and 6.8 percent, respectively, of the total fatty acid content of red blood cells.

In addition to the links between EPA and DHA levels and triglycerides and HDL, increased levels of DHA were positively with levels of LDL and total cholesterol, said the researchers.

While a link between EPA/DHA and CRP were reported, Makhoul and her co-workers noted that the link was stronger when EPA concentrations excessed 3 percent of fatty acids in the cells, and when DHA levels exceeded 7 percent.

“Increasing EPA and DHA intakes to amounts well above those consumed by the general US population may have strong beneficial effects on chronic disease risk,” they concluded.

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28820
“Associations of very high intakes of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids with biomarkers of chronic disease risk among Yup’ik Eskimos”
Authros: Z. Makhoul, A.R. Kristal, R. Gulati, B. Luick, A. Bersamin, B. Boyer, G.V. Mohatt

Good Fats Reduce the Risk of Macular Degeneration

A study was reported in the Archives of Ophthalmology that revealed a protective effect of omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats against age-related macular degeneration. Dr. Jennifer Tan and her colleagues determined that men and women who consume at least one serving of fish per week had a 31% lower risk of developing macular degeneration compared to those who consumed less. Eating nuts, olive oil, and other good fats helped even more.

A follow-up study reported in the same journal, showed that those individuals who had a high intake of trans fats were at a significantly higher risk of developing macular degeneration. In my Healthy for Life Program, I strongly promote decreasing your intake of bad fats (saturated fats), eliminating trans fats, and increasing your intake of the good fats (monounsaturated and omega-3 fats). All fats are not bad. It is the types of fats you consume that are the key.

Fish oil tablets are readily available, but many are contaminated with mercury. Insure you only take a pharmaceutical grade fish oil.

Fish oil and healthy skin

Fish oil containing the Omega 3 essential fatty acid EPA helps to prevent wrinkles and can delay the aging process of the skin according to recent research published in the Journal of Lipid Research in 2005. Scientists have also found that fish oil containing EPA can limit the damage to the skin produced by overexposure to the sun and help to reduce the negative effect of UV rays. This has particular relevance when we consider the recent and dramatic rise in cases of skin cancers caused predominantly by exposure to the suns harmful rays.

Essential Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are known to play a critical role in promoting healthy skin. They help to regulate cellular function and maintain elasticity and suppleness in the skin. Consequently, a fatty acid deficiency will show up as skin problems. Most of us do not get enough of the Omega 3 fatty acids in our diet whereas Omega 6 fatty acids are in plentiful supply. Symptoms of Omega 3 fatty acid deficiency include skin problems like eczema, dandruff, dry and flaking skin and poor wound healing.

Three reasons why EPA is so beneficial to the skin?

  • EPA is known to reduce inflammation by helping the body to produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. These are hormone-like substances that are responsible for regulating all the cells in our body.
  • EPA helps to inhibit the production of androgens, which are hormones that influence the production of sebum in the hair follicle. Excess sebum production can lead to acne and other skin problems.
  • EPA helps to limit production of Arachidonic acid, which is responsible for pro-inflammatory responses in the body, high levels of which are found in people with inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis.

The Omega 3 fatty acids are ALA, EPA and DHA. Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is found in dark green leafy vegetables and algae. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) can be found in oily fish such as salmon, herring, anchovies, mackerel and Tuna. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can also be found in oily fish. We can convert ALA to EPA and DHA but the conversion is very inefficient and dependent on a number of factors. However, we can convert EPA into DHA if we get enough EPA.

Supplementing with fish oil that contains EPA can alleviate the symptoms of skin disorders such as dry and flaky skin, psoriasis, eczema and acne as well as many other inflammatory skin conditions. However, it is important to choose a fish oil that is high in EPA as DHA has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of EPA.

Fish oil supplements can contain mercury. To be safe take only a pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement.