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The One That Got Away
February 24, 2009 2:03 PM   Subscribe

A single nutrient may have turned early humans into civilized man. Has stripping it from our diet given rise to cancer, diabetes, and other civilized diseases? "There has been a thousandfold increase in the consumption of soybean oil over the past hundred years. The result is an unplanned experiment in brain and heart chemistry, one whose subject is the entire population of the developed world." A series of epidemiological studies showed that populations that consume high levels of omega-3s in the form of seafood are the least afflicted by the major diseases associated with the Western diet. (via)

For those averse to seafood and supplements, there are non-fishy ways to boost dietary levels of omega-3. You can mill flaxseed in a coffee grinder and sprinkle it on your morning cereal; opt for grass-fed beef and free-range or omega-3 enriched eggs; and load up on walnuts, blueberries, and spinach every chance you get. Most of all, though, favor fats and spreads with a relatively low ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s (think canola and olive oils rather than corn and sunflower oils). And the old wisdom holds true: stay away from trans fats, tropical oils, and saturated fats.
posted by netbros (66 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I gues your "more inside" addresses this in part, but why does it make a difference that the omega-3 comes from seafood? Seafood is often expensive and more difficult to obtain and cook than what most people are sued to. Can't people just take a supplement and achieve the same result?
posted by Pastabagel at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2009


Too bad the oceans are being polluted and over-fished and I feel like in my lifetime I will see the extinction of most fish species.
posted by fuq at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Among the Japanese, who each eat an average of 145 pounds of fish a year, rates of depression and homicide are strikingly low. Meanwhile, men who live in landlocked nations such as Austria and Hungary, where fish consumption is respectively 25 pounds and nine pounds per capita, top the global charts in suicide and depression.
What? Have I been absorbing the wrong cultural stereotypes? Also, the use of homicide rates in Japan versus suicide rates in Austria and Hungary seems to be a bit weaselly. And I thought Hungary was an extreme outlier globally when it comes to suicide rates.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:13 PM on February 24, 2009


So, omega-3s are healthy? And MSNBC.com tells us so?

And I can find omega-3s in fish and flaxseed?

And, I shouldn't eat trans fats? But spinach is good for me?

Please, don't stop now... I need more of this bleeding-edge, breaking news about my health and well-being.
posted by pineapple at 2:17 PM on February 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


so long and thanks for all the not quite enough fish
posted by roygbv at 2:19 PM on February 24, 2009


My understanding is that "seafood" gets most of its omega-3s from algal sources by way of the food chain.

EPA / DHA supplements often come from algal sources. I buy Horizon Organic Milk with DHA for my year+ old son, which uses algal sources.

It's largely an issue of the ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s in our diet...the western diet is extremely out of balance due to corn/soy use in livestock feed (and just about everything else). Trans fats certainly don't help, but now that we've shone a spotlight on them it's time to spend more effort understanding the importance of a balanced omega 3/omega 6 diet.

Omega 3s and 6s compete for the same enzymes in your body, and imbalance results in an excessive concentration of inflammatory prostaglandin hormones, because omega 6s are converted into arachidonic acid, which is exactly what aspirin interferes with in order to relieve inflammation. Olive oil is thus "healthier" than corn oil because it is not rich in omega 6 acids (and is more neutral than simply "healthy"), and because it's monounsaturated, it is not oxidized into toxic death oil during the cooking process. Omega 3s and 6s are polyunsaturated and become very oxidized when used as a cooking oil (or refined into cooking oil, for that matter).

Flax is great, but some research suggests that it's best to consume DHA and EPA directly to realize the benefits for your brain and eyes, rather than to exclusively obtain more generic omega 3s from flax and other plant sources.

This is a very timely post for me; I'm visiting my dad in the hospital post triple-bypass surgery. I've been discussing him with this for quite some time...he's skeptical, but hopefully will come around.
posted by aydeejones at 2:22 PM on February 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


Or.... maybe those who consume a western diet, high in unhealthy things, are more likely to get assorted diseases than people who have healthier diets? I'm gonna guess a triple bacon cheeseburger is a bigger detriment to my health than missing out on some omega 3.
posted by Narual at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has stripping it from our diet given rise to cancer, diabetes, and other civilized diseases?

I doubt it.
posted by delmoi at 2:26 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Seafood is often expensive and more difficult to obtain and cook than what most people are sued to. "

Sardines and canned salmon. No cooking required. Admittedly, the sardines highest in omega-3 are the more expensive brislings. Sardines are also high in cholesterol, but one can a day can be safely eaten.
posted by orthogonality at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2009


Can't people just take a supplement and achieve the same result?

According to Joseph Hibbeln, MD, 3700 milligrams a day is the amount of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA (1/3 of the number) and DHA (the other 2/3) that those with a high omega-6 intake should consume. This is the equivalent of six high-potency fish oil capsules.
posted by netbros at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2009


Narual: well, the western diet is excessively rich in omega 6 fatty acids, for one...
posted by aydeejones at 2:35 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well this makes sense to me; since I discovered my pancreas was broken and stopped eating stuff that made my blood sugar go into orbit my health has gotten much better, but my pancreas remains broken and a few health problems continue to resist all effort to clear them. A few cans of sardines a week will be an easy experiment to see if there is a next level.
posted by localroger at 2:35 PM on February 24, 2009


"You can mill flaxseed..."

This is one of those common wisdom things that really isn't correct. Yes flax seeds contain ALA (The essential form of omega-3s) but ALA is only important in this regard because it is the precursor to DHA and EPA. The ability of a human to convert ALA to DHA declines with age, so the level of DHA produced from the ALA is going to limited by the available enzymes and the levels of ALA to LA (The essential form of omega-6s) in the diet.

Flax seeds and other foods (walnuts) that contain ALA but not DHA and EPA just aren't a substitute for seafood that contains DHA and EPA. They are better than nothing though because it is probably levels of EPA that play a role in the development of cancer and diabetes as it is the precursor to eicosanoids that regulate inflammation.
posted by 517 at 2:40 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


While this all seems to be good dietary advice, I'd be skeptical of some of the claims about "civilized" diseases. Diabetes is the only one that comes to mind as being fairly well established as a true "civilized" disease.

Cancer has been around for a very long time. However, a greater proportion of people die from cancer now than used to, say, a hundred-ten years ago. Diet and lifestyle are not to blame, though. More people die from cancer because more people live through other diseases that used to kill them. Same for heart disease.

Correlation and causation are very difficult to resolve, especially in diet & nutrition.

That being said, there is no harm in consuming a well balanced diet of organically produced food, and I have been getting my share of omega-3s.

Oh, and don't be chowing down on too much fish, either. Fish are relatively high in heavy metals, courtesy of our polluted runoff.
posted by Xoebe at 2:46 PM on February 24, 2009


Flax seeds and other foods (walnuts) that contain ALA but not DHA and EPA just aren't a substitute for seafood that contains DHA and EPA.

For those of us who are allergic to seafood, is there in fact a substitute? Or are we just shit out of luck?
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:46 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


The daring jumping spider's diet is excessively rich in omega 6 acids too.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:48 PM on February 24, 2009


this seems like old news to me, but since it's here in my beloved blue, a few factoids that I think are relevant:

1) the omega-3s from flax have not been shown to have the same effects as those from fish (which is not to say they don't have the same effects, just that the evidence isn't there yet)

2) substituting omega 3s OR omega 6s for an equal amount of saturated fat in the diet will lower LDL (bad) cholesterol

3) because omega 3s reduce blood clotting, they may have been evolutionarily disadvantageous, contrary to the general "we evolved eating them" notion presented in the article.

to understand this mechanism, you should start with the understanding that numerous factors in the circulatory system keep blood in a delicate balance between clotting and not clotting. so, clotting involves tipping the scale one way or the other. and because clotting is serious business that can, say, block circulation to part of your brain, the body regulates it very carefully.

as part of managing clotting, most of the time that a factor is produced in the body that favors blood clotting, a byproduct is produced that favors not clotting. arachidonic acid is an example of this. it is split into thromboxanes and prostaglandins. thromboxanes narrow blood vessels and increase the stickiness of platelets, favoring clotting. prostaglandins dilate vessels and decrease the stickiness of platelets, preventing clotting. when omega 3s are substituted for arachidonic acid (which happens when you eat fish), the prostaglandins that get produced are just as effective at preventing clotting. but the thromboxanes produced are weaker stimulators of clotting. the net result is that the balance is shifted towards not clotting which helps prevent some strokes and heart attacks.

now, reducing clotting is a good thing in this day and age where our world is defined by overeating and a whole lot fewer cuts than our ancestors had. but back in our evolutionary past, not bleeding very much was a huge advantage. so, there are hypercoagulable disorders like factor V leiden that are prevalent in the human genome because they were advantageous during evolution, but now they make carriers more prone to clots and strokes.

4) we cannot all eat that much fish and expect there to be anything left in the ocean

5) the grass-fed beef route to omega 3s is a non-starter. in addition to the horrendous environmental impact of cattle, that beef is still full of artery-clogging, heart-attack-causing saturated fat.
posted by 1-2punch at 2:53 PM on February 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


Isn't this part of the problem with Western attitudes to food these days. We want a magic bullet/simple solution that can solve all our nutritional problems? Paging Michael Pollan...
posted by treblekicker at 2:56 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Ken Burn's docu on the Lewis and Clark expedition said that once they reached the Pacific, in the winter and short on supplies, they ran around shooting squirrels for stew. The big fat Salmon that they were knee deep in were tossed to the dog. Eating fish was unmanly or something.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:57 PM on February 24, 2009


You know how morons say stuff like "Meat is concentrated vegetables, so I'm getting my full recommended daily intake by eating this steak"? Well, since the Japanese are apparently eating all the fish, and getting all the omega-3, then...do you see where I'm going with this?

Seriously though flaxseed oil is just as good a source, if not better, than fish and fish oil. Plus it has the added benefit of not making you sick from the stench of your own breath.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:58 PM on February 24, 2009


I thought diabetes was rampant simply because people in "civilized" countries eat so much damned sugar.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:01 PM on February 24, 2009


Paging Michael Pollan...

Yes, this is only news if you subscribe to what Pollan calls "nutritionalism". Eat food, etc.
posted by GuyZero at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sardines are also high in cholesterol, but one can a day can be safely eaten.

The way I have always understood it is that cholesterol in food is not a problem. Generally, the body will increase its cholesterol levels beyond the norm when there is some form of internal damage or if you tend to have a genetic disposition for it. Otherwise, consuming cholesterol in your food is safe for healthy individuals...I could be wrong, but this is how I had it told to me a few times.
posted by scarello at 3:09 PM on February 24, 2009


So if we eat more fish we can all become Charlton Heston and fight off the zombies?
posted by srboisvert at 3:10 PM on February 24, 2009


turgid dahlia: "You know how morons say stuff like "Meat is concentrated vegetables, so I'm getting my full recommended daily intake by eating this steak"? "

No, I don't know that. Really? You've heard that? The closest I've heard is "beer is liquid bread," said by college students justifying spending their grocery money on Rainier.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:11 PM on February 24, 2009


Seafood is often expensive and more difficult to obtain

It also swims in it's own pee and smells like an angel screaming blue bloody murder.
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:13 PM on February 24, 2009


Seriously though flaxseed oil is just as good a source, if not better, than fish and fish oil. Plus it has the added benefit of not making you sick from the stench of your own breath

The problem with flax, is that many people don't realize that whole seeds have to be purchased, and ground only when needed, or that they should purchase ground seeds or oil that has been refrigerated from point of manufacture and onward. otherwise it will go rancid. Many times, you will see ground flaxseed in the store or oils, which are not refrigerated and that renders them worthless. There is also the claim that flax can cause prostrated cancer which makes some folks uneasy. I have no idea if that's true or not, but I stick to my fish oils. You can get them enteric coated which means they won't digest until it hits the small intestine, thus eliminating the "fish breath"
posted by scarello at 3:14 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've heard the beer one too. But the meat thing is something I get fairly often, especially when the discussion moves on to how I'm apparently a morally superior jerk and a pagan when people find out I'm vegetarian.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:15 PM on February 24, 2009


Man is an uncivilized disease.
posted by gman at 3:16 PM on February 24, 2009


Charleton Heston is dead. I'm still around. You should want to be me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:22 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


All I know is that I take 2400 mg of fish oil, 2600 mg of flaxseed oil, and 2000 mg of borage oil every day and have done so for almost two years and feel better than I have in a decade. I also recently added 200 mg of CoQ10 to that regimen to make up for taking a high dose of Lipitor.
posted by briank at 3:34 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


>"Can't people just take a supplement and achieve the same result?"

Dietary supplements are not necessarily good substitutes for getting your nutrients from food.

See also: everything Michael Pollan has ever written.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 3:46 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've heard this propaganda about omega3 before. Yeah, yeah, eat more fish. Exercise. Die anyway.

For any nutritionist who tells you that one thing is good for you, there are going to be two telling you it's going to kill you. There are always reports of how they do things in those "other countries" - the Mediterraneans/Japanese and eating fish, the French and drinking red wine - and see THEY don't get heart disease!

What we never really consider is that the mortality rate for everyone is 100%. How totally anal you want to be about your diet is up to you.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:47 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Won't eating that much fish interfere with my performing Mamet on Broadway?
posted by nicwolff at 3:49 PM on February 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Correlation does not equal causation.

Here in Korea (although less so) and in Japan (likewise), people tend to be healthier and thinner because they eat fresh food prepared from natural ingredients (by which I mean unprocessed, not boxed or canned or larded with preservatives and corn sugar and so on), and eat as wide a variety of them as they can, all in relative moderation. Certainly a diet that includes fish and other sources of the good oils is a factor, but it is a recurring stupidity we see again and again that eating MIRACLE FOOD X in great quantity will do you unalloyed good. This is not the case.

That said, Korea has the highest rate of stomach cancer in the OECD (probably as much due to stress and soju as anything else), packaged and junk foods are encroaching, and Korean food in general uses far too much salt, but, yeah, even though it is debatable to what extent genetics also play a part, folks do tend to be healthier and slimmer longer.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is important. The optimum is 7:1 (6 to 3) but most people it's more like 50:1 - corn and soy is a big source of omega-6 so we get too much. Lot of evidence based science that mental disorders and heart disease is caused by an imbalance in the ratio. Thus the supplements. Omega-3 supplements are fine in the form of fish oil pills. While your at it, Vitamin D and A is important too, so you can get it all in Cod Liver Oil (A, D and omega 3).
posted by stbalbach at 3:59 PM on February 24, 2009


What we never really consider is that the mortality rate for everyone is 100%.

Well, length and quality of life are *somewhat* important...
posted by LordSludge at 4:04 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh and Talapia has zero omega-3 and very high in omega-6.

Doctors are telling heart patients to eat more fish (because of omega-3), so they order Talapia from the menu because it has no mercury (fresh water vegetarian fish), but it actually does harm because of the high omega-6 ratio which causes inflammation, and no benefit because there's no omega-3.
posted by stbalbach at 4:08 PM on February 24, 2009


A single nutrient may have turned early humans into civilized man.

Beer?
posted by exogenous at 4:14 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


A single nutrient may have turned early humans into civilized man.

I was expecting a bacon post. Proof that MeFi is learning.
posted by grounded at 4:14 PM on February 24, 2009


Correlation does not equal causation.

This is usually cited by people who don't understand how epidemiologic analysis typically works and/or how causation is assessed.
posted by docgonzo at 4:17 PM on February 24, 2009


Seriously though flaxseed oil is just as good a source, if not better, than fish and fish oil.

Almost. Just as good a source of a kind of Omega-3. Not yet proven to be as efficient nutritionally.
posted by tkchrist at 4:24 PM on February 24, 2009


I've heard this propaganda about omega3 before. Yeah, yeah, eat more fish. Exercise. Die anyway.

So your point is: Life is a race. Kill yourself now?

I believe the point is quality of life is improved when health is improved. The people that should understand this best are the people chronically unhealthy. But the base line is distorted until unhealthy people actually get healthy and have something to compare both states.

Having had my own health drastically improved from a very unhealthy state by eating right and exercise I shouldn't have to tell you the net result has been a vastly better life in general. Dying tomorrow might still suck but today has been awesome.
posted by tkchrist at 4:29 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I despise the "we're all gonna die, so who cares" argument. We require omega 3s, as they are essential fatty acids, pure and simple, and we don't eat enough of them on average. Every cell in our body is composed of them.

The western diet promotes gross dietary imbalance as a general rule -- it's about concentrating delicious, delicious crap. Convenience food brings and early, unpleasant death.

Perhaps my contempt has something to do with my 54 year-old dad nearly dying due to his lifestyle, and realizing that I've been living this argument for my 28 years. Mmm, it's Girl Scout Cookie season...

Reminds me of a sentiment that was expressed in a certain thread regarding immunizations.
posted by aydeejones at 5:23 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


And yes, everything in moderation, even excess IMHO...but it's soooo damned easy to kill yourself slowly, and so easy to avoid omega 3s without realizing it. Awareness is crucial before you can integrate "everything."
posted by aydeejones at 5:26 PM on February 24, 2009


Among the Japanese, who each eat an average of 145 pounds of fish a year, rates of depression and homicide are strikingly low. Meanwhile, men who live in landlocked nations such as Austria and Hungary, where fish consumption is respectively 25 pounds and nine pounds per capita, top the global charts in suicide and depression.

I concur with Joakim that this bit, at least, appears to be bullshit.

In Japan, mental illness is still commonly viewed as evidence of weakness of character. Taking this into account, there is no reason to believe that the low level of diagnosed clinical depression in Japan accurately represents a low incidence of the disease.

And as for the global suicide charts, here one is.

Austria: 15.6 suicides per 100,000 population, in 2006.

Hungary: 26 suicides per 100,000 population, in 2005.

Japan: 23.7 suicides per 100,000 population, in 2006.

If you decide to use these figures as the basis of your analysis, you should try to figure out what Hungary and Japan have in common which differs from Austria, and not arbitrarily - and wrongly - just declare the Japanese suicide rate to be low.

(Oh, and the USA has a rate of 11, Australia 10.8, and the United Kingdom 6.8. So it would appear that the Japanese would do well to go to McDonalds for breakfast, have a meat pie for lunch, and order in chicken tikka masala for dinner!)
posted by dansdata at 5:31 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


...the Danes, enthusiastic pork eaters who have been known to butter even their cheese.

Really? Color me... intrigued.

(Also: More neutraceutical nonsense. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.)
posted by rusty at 5:32 PM on February 24, 2009


I despise the "we're all gonna die, so who cares" argument.

Ditto. It's immoral, and sadly common (in both senses).
posted by stbalbach at 5:54 PM on February 24, 2009


What we never really consider is that the mortality rate for everyone is 100%. How totally anal you want to be about your diet is up to you.

You're missing the point.

For me, it's not a question of whether I'm going to die or not or even if I'm going to add years to my life. I know that lifespan is pretty much genetically determined and, absent serious advances in medical technology or a freak accident, I have about 40-45 years or so left on this mortal coil.

Quality of life is the key here. I don't to spend the last 10-15 years of my life paying a stranger to help me get on and off the toilet. I'd like to have something else to talk about in my dotage besides all the pills I'm taking and my aches and pains and how my health sucks.

And that's why I work out and why I pay attention to my diet.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:04 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I don't want to spend the last 10-15 years"

Sorry 'bout that.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:05 PM on February 24, 2009


(And a quick search reveals that "dotage" is the wrong word entirely. Strike that and make it "old age")
posted by jason's_planet at 6:06 PM on February 24, 2009


posted by 1-2punch

5) the grass-fed beef route to omega 3s is a non-starter. in addition to the horrendous environmental impact of cattle, that beef is still full of artery-clogging, heart-attack-causing saturated fat.

"(grass fed) ground beef is 65% lower in saturated fat and its New York strips are 35% lower than conventional beef, as measured by the USDA. "Any feedlot-fattened animal has a much higher level of saturated fat than a forage-fed steer""
posted by weezy at 6:10 PM on February 24, 2009


And that's why I work out and why I pay attention to my diet.

As do I. And I also pay attention to the fact that if I get hit by a bus, my first thought in the afterlife is NOT going to be "I wish I had eaten more fish."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is usually cited by people who don't understand how epidemiologic analysis typically works and/or how causation is assessed.

It's also cited, just occasionally, by people who do. Which one are you suggesting I am?

Note: I don't have a fucking clue how epidemiologic analysis typically works. I just dislike passive-aggressive snark.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:47 PM on February 24, 2009


I seriously think there are some people in this thread that are using Pollan as an excuse to ignore solid science. Omega 3 in the form of Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a dietary requirement that will cause you to die if you do not receive it, that's why it is called essential. The human body is not able to make carbon chains with double bonds between the 3rd and 4th carbon atom, so everything in the body that contains a carbon chain with a bond between the 3rd and 4th carbon has to come from ALA or be consumed in the form of DHA or EPA.

I like Pollan, but I think people are misinterpreting him. He was talking about the fact that there is politics in the science of nutrition and that the best knowledge does not always get the same amount of press that the weak science gets. He was also talking about the fact that the reductive nature of science has taken nutrients out of the context of food, but that's how science starts. Nutrition is in it's infancy and it does not have a deep understanding of how food effects health, but don't through the baby out with the bath water because you read one NYT best seller.
posted by 517 at 7:09 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


What can a soy devouring vegetarian do to make the ratio work out in his/her favor (flaxseed being scarce around these here parts)?
posted by incompressible at 7:32 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


While, once again, it looks like a healthy diet is a healthy diet.

It's not like we planned for it, but it turns out my wife and I get a lot of omega-3s just by doing what we normally do. And it's not like we really do anything very strange. We don't by junky food. We cook quickly from scratch. We size portions appropriately. Simple, obvious things.

The very best reason to want good health: because the sex is way better. Fit bodies are happy, horny bodies that can go the extra mile.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:34 PM on February 24, 2009


As do I. And I also pay attention to the fact that if I get hit by a bus, my first thought in the afterlife is NOT going to be "I wish I had eaten more fish."

You know that bus that hit you? The point you missed was on it.
posted by tkchrist at 7:39 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm always wary of this kind of "single nutrient" hyperbole. Especially when its nearly impossible to prove. Monocausality is rare.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:49 PM on February 24, 2009


treblekicker: Isn't this part of the problem with Western attitudes to food these days. We want a magic bullet/simple solution that can solve all our nutritional problems?

The "Western = bad" meme is being overwrought in this thread IMO; "magic pill of super-health / immortality" is by no means a particularly Western thing, if anything it's universal and if nothing else is stridently present in Eastern culture too. Ground, powdered tiger penis, anyone? Perhaps washed down with a ginseng drink?
posted by XMLicious at 9:44 PM on February 24, 2009


From what I understand, , omega3 oil comes from anything wild. Wild plants, wild animals, wild anything. Problem is, humans haven't eaten wild for hundreds if not thousands of years. That is, except for fish, which is about the only wild thing we consume. But yeah, I don't get why a synthetic version can't be produced. Like most vitamins and mineral suppliments, it may not be like the real thing, but it can't hurt to try.
posted by zardoz at 11:15 PM on February 24, 2009


I'm always wary of this kind of "single nutrient" hyperbole. Especially when its nearly impossible to prove.

You're right to be wary, because at least in the context of the brain, it's not all about a single nutrient. To make membrane components out of DHA, your brain also needs uridine and choline. The relationship between these three and the brain (especially memory) has been the subject of a number of recent studies in rodents and at least one clinical trial in humans.

Here's an abstract that sums up the rodent research pretty well. This google scholar search turns up a bunch of papers from the same research group on the subject, including links to pdfs of many of the full articles (and one Ph.D thesis!) for free. The gist of it is that they were able to significantly improve the memory of the test animals by supplementing their diet with all three nutrients.

And here's a press release about the human study on Alzheimer's patients.

There is a lot of hype and BS out there, but there IS some solid research going on and so far the results look pretty encouraging.

A single nutrient may have turned early humans into civilized man.

Beer?


Hey, you never know, beer is a good source of uridine!
posted by benign at 11:56 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not everyone agrees with the position taken by this article. By the way, did anyone else get the feeling that this article seemed like a promotional piece for the products described in it? Anyway, keep taking your fish oil pills and eating lots of fish and vegetables. It certainly was right about that.
posted by caddis at 7:45 AM on February 25, 2009


Cool stuff, benign. My cursory reading suggests that the uridine in this context acts as a precursor for phosphatidylcholine. So uridine can probably be substituted by mayonnaise.
posted by exogenous at 7:45 AM on February 25, 2009


At least I hope this gets people eating more sardines. They are so easy and delicious with crackers, full of omega 3 and lower in mercury than fish like salmon because they are lower on the food chain.

But when I eat them I have to hide myself away, because if anyone sees me piling sardines on a saltine, the inevitable result is disgust. I want to be able to enjoy my sardine addiction in public!
posted by afu at 6:10 AM on February 26, 2009


But when I eat them I have to hide myself away, because if anyone sees me piling sardines on a saltine, the inevitable result is disgust. I want to be able to enjoy my sardine addiction in public!

Go sit outside with the smokers? I'm actually not offended by smoking (nor by sardines) but it would be pretty funny to see a bunch of smokers disgusted by someone eating sardines in their midst... because it stinks.
posted by XMLicious at 9:09 PM on March 1, 2009


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