The Truth About Polyunsaturated Fats

By Rebecca Carden — January 29, 2021

Fish oil

Recently on social media there has been a BIG push to demonize polyunsaturated fats specifically in the form of fish oils and including Cod Liver Oil.

Claims are being made that all fish oils (including the consumption of fatty fish) are toxic and cause cancer as well as insulin resistance, estrogen dominance and every other disease known to man.

We are in full agreeance that polyunsaturated fats (PUFA's) found in vegetable and seed oils are absolutely to be avoided because they are nothing but industrial, highly processed, toxic, rancid oils that have nothing good to offer the human body.

When it comes to fish oils though, it is not a black and white discussion, there are so many variables that need to be included in the conversation.

Fish oils are notorious for rancidity due to poor manufacturing processes, storage techniques and poor quality raw materials. Quality counts and will determine whether the end product experiences lipid peroxidation or the oxidation of the omega fatty acids within the oil.

Always checking that your fish oil supplement company provides Certificate of Analysis for each individual batch of their product is essential and part of the analysis should include a TOTOX analysis and Lipid Peroxidation analysis. Nitrogen Flushing of the product bottle is a good practice most reputable companies will engage this to ensure that all traces of oxygen are removed to limit the possibility of oxidation. Heat, light and oxygen exposure are the drivers of oxidation.

So that's the quality side of things out of the way. Now let's touch upon the human variables.

Firstly, let us not forget that fatty fish has been eaten for thousands of years. The Inuit, Greenland and Japanese communities are highly regarded for their very low levels of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer through their high, regular consumption of fatty fish. Those following a Mediterranean Diet show similar health benefits. From an evolutionary perspective, the consumption of fish oils is far from a foreign concept.

The truth about polyunsaturated fats

Yes taking fish oil is very different to consuming whole fish. For a start, nature packages all polyunsaturated fats together with plenty of antioxidants and fat soluble vitamins that act as antioxidants guarding against lipid oxidation. Fat soluble vitamins such as A,D, E and K are found together with omega 3 fatty acids in fish.

Funnily enough, our body works the same way. Our cholesterol is packaged up with those same fat soluble vitamins as well as CoEnzyme Q10, Betacarotene and Selenium to prevent our cholesterol from oxidising, becoming sticky and causing problems for our cardiovascular system.

Nature is not a Muppet! She knows how to handle Polyunsaturated Fats from nature. Industrial Seed oils such as those from canola, sunflower and safflower are a very different story.

The claim that as soon as fish oils and omega 3 fatty acids enter our body and encounter our body temperature is a little bit ludicrous simply because our body is an intelligent system.

Fish oils undergo molecular distillation and are basically de-vitamised so to speak, they are stripped of their fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants that would be naturally occurring. This could be problematic if the person consuming the fish oil is in a state of deficiency through eating a Standard Western/ American Diet which contains very little nutrients. If a deficiency is present in those core nutrients and antioxidants, consuming fish oil will see our own antioxidant reserves depleted to properly assimilate the oil, thus leaving us in a state of nutrient bankruptcy.

Which leads us into the issue of dietary status and genetic polymorphism's. For anyone consuming a nutrient deficient diet, consuming high amounts of fish oil which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, the likelihood of experiencing Vitamin E deficiency amongst other shortfalls is very high. So the question is this - is the fish oil to blame? Or is it the persons crappy diet?

Roughly 50% of the population are unable to convert beta-carotene from their diet into usable preformed Vitamin A due to a polymorphism with the BCO1 genes and are unaware of it. Another portion of the population have a defect with their VDR (Vitamin D Receptor) gene which sees them very poorly convert Vitamin D from sunshine leaving them in a deficient state.

Each of these factors will play a significant role in how someone responds to the taking of fish oil.

When it comes to pregnancy, it is absolutely clear without question that supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, is critical not only to a growing fetus but also the mothers health. In the third trimester the fetus literally mines for DHA from the mothers brain to use for growing its own. Not enough DHA to spare can leave the mother depleted and low and behold, we have post natal depression.

The moral of this article is omega 3 fatty acid supplementation has immense benefits to offer as long as the quality is high and peroxidation is low. Always always ask for a certificate of analysis to determine purity, origin, presence of contamination and oxidation levels.

Some of our favourite trusted brands are -

Rosita Cod Liver Oil- available to purchase from our Goodness Pantry

Nordic Naturals

Bioceuticals (practitioner only)

Seeking Health DHA

We hope this is useful information for you!

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