Say yes to fish

  • Health
  • Sunday, 17 Oct 2004

Changing Paradigm by RAJEN M.

FDA approves fish oil claim for heart disease in foods. 

DR Lester M. Crawford, the acting FDA Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Sept 8 announced the availability of a qualified health claim for reduced risk of heart disease on foods that contain eiscosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids. Typically, these two omega-3 fatty acids are contained in oily fish, such as salmon, lake trout, tuna and herring.  

A qualified health claim on a conventional food must be supported by credible scientific evidence. Following a systematic evaluation of the available scientific data, as outlined in the FDA’s Interim Procedures for Qualified Health Claims in the Labelling of Conventional Human Food and Human Dietary Supplements, the FDA announced the approval of this qualified health claim.  

Second time 

The EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acid qualified health claim is the second qualified health claim that FDA has announced for conventional food. A similar claim regarding foods containing EPA and DHA was proposed by the FDA back in 2000. The American Heart Association (AHA) has endorsed fish oil since November 2001.  

The FDA recommends that consumers not exceed more than a total of 3 grams per day of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, with no more than 2 grams per day from a dietary supplement. It is important to understand that the FDA is referring to the fatty acid content here, not the oil. Most fish oil supplements which are listed as “one gram” contain only 300 milligram of omega 3 fatty acids. 

More support 

The FDA announced that they plan to support the claim that consuming omega-3 fatty acids plays a prominent part in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. In addition to preventing coronary heart disease, other studies have shown the benefits of these fats in the prevention of heart arrhythmia.  

Nearly all the fish are somewhat contaminated. The typical rule of thumb is the larger the fish, the more mercury and PCBs they will have. Small fish like sardines however are typically mercury and PCB free. Ideally we should be consuming healthy contaminant-free fish and receiving our vitamin D from the sun. 

New millennium 

Let’s face it folks, this is the 21st century and nearly all fish are contaminated. The oceans are almost a toxic dump. Ocean algae, which makes most of the fatty acids found concentrated in fish, are exposed to a load of toxins from industry, dumping and travel. The larger fish simply concentrate these toxins further.  

It makes sense to supplement with high quality molecularly distilled fish oil. Molecular distillation is a process that uniquely removes toxins while preserving the potency of the highly sensitive fatty acids in fish oil. Clearly the benefits of molecular distillation far outweigh the high costs associated with it.  

In addition, according to studies published in Circulation (2004;110:368–73) and Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids (2004;71:153–9), evidence points to the possibility that these fatty acids might also prevent dangerous abnormalities in heart rhythm.  

In the first of the new studies, 65 people with arrhythmia were randomly assigned to receive either three grams of fish oil (providing one gram of omega-3 fatty acids) per day or a placebo for six months. Blood tests were then performed and heart rhythms were assessed during the six-month trial and for six months after stopping the supplements.  

Compared to the start of the study, people receiving fish oil had significantly fewer and less severe arrhythmias. People taking fish oil had 46.9%, 67.8%, 71.8%, and 100% fewer occurrences of the four types of arrhythmia monitored in the study, namely atrial premature complexes, ventricular premature complexes, couplets and triplets.  

Heart reversal 

Six months after the patients stopped taking the fish oil, these improvements were reversed and all measurements were similar to those from the beginning of the study. People receiving placebo experienced no significant changes in arrhythmia frequency during the study.  

The second study involved 4,815 people over the age of 65 years who were monitored for a potentially serious type of arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation. They were followed for 12 years through annual physical exams and electrocardiographs to assess heart rhythms, and through reviewing records from all hospital visits.  

Frequent fish eaters were found to have a lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation than people who were not fish eaters. Compared to those who ate fish less than once a month, patients who ate fish once to three times a month were 24% less likely to suffer atrial fibrillation; patients who ate it one to four times per week were 30% less likely to suffer; and eating fish five or more times a week reduced the risk by 35%.  

Elderly benefits 

The researchers therefore concluded that in elderly people, eating fatty fish reduced the risk of atrial fibrillation, and in people with existing arrhythmias, supplementing with fish oil reduced the number and severity of episodes of arrhythmia.  

Of all the functional food ingredients available, the future looks most promising for omega-3 fatty acids, particularly in the US, according to recent research by consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan. The research commented that while the more mature European omega-3 PUFA market was likely to stabilise at an annual growth rate of 8%, some key market participants in the US are experiencing growth rates of over 20%.  

Increasing scientific evidence is growing to substantiate the role of omega-3 fatty acids not only for protecting heart health, but also for the prevention of cancer and other diseases.  



1. Science Blog September 8, 2004 

2. NutraIngredients.comSeptember 10, 2004 

3. www.mercola.comSeptember 10th, 2004  

4. Circulation (2004;110:368–73) 

5. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids (2004;71:153–9) 


n Rajen M. is a pharmacist with a doctorate in holistic medicine. Write to him at The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely that of the author’s. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information. 

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