Are Fish Oil Supplements Actually Beneficial?

The Confusion Around Omega 3's

In the past year-or-so, I've seen a number of confusing stories circulating news outlets on the subject of Omega 3 supplementation.

Generally, these articles articles tend to focus on the things Omega 3 supplementation does not do.

For example, contrary to some marketing language around Omega 3 products, supplementing with Omega 3's does not appear to directly correlate with reduced risk of heart disease. [1][2]

In 2013, we saw a lot of stories saying that supplementation with Omega 3 has little to no effect on the incidence of prostate and breast cancer. [3][4]

The mistake that I see the media outlets make over and over is to then - in the interest of producing the most dramatic headline - declare that Omega 3 supplementation is a waste of time and money.

This is a hugely flawed assumption and deeply irresponsible journalism.

To understand why, let's first look at the function on Omega 3's in the body.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's): Explained

First, it's useful to understand a bit about these critical fats.  EFA's are poly-unsaturated fatty acids that the body requires for optimal health, but cannot synthesize on it's own.

As such, we have to ensure that we are getting these fatty acids in our diet. EFA's are processed by the body for the production of signaling molecules that are used for a huge number of metabolic processes in the body and brain. Without these molecules, these communication pathways in the body sputter to a halt and the body suffers as a result. 

As you'll probably recognize, EFA's are classified into two primary categories: Omega 3's and Omega 6's. Both are very much required for complete optimal functioning of the body and brain. 

Interestingly though, this doesn't mean that you should just eat Omega 3's and Omega 6's indiscriminately.  Omega 3's and Omega 6's compete against each other in the body for the enzymes needed to convert them into the various signaling molecules.  

If either Omega 3 or Omega 6 fats are disproportionately present in the body, the signaling molecules derived from these essential fats will be out of balance, creating a number of downstream issues in the body.

Omega 3 vs. Omega 6: The History

Up until the late 70's the fats we ate came primarily from animal fat which made it easy to eat a relatively healthy, balanced Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio.  

The advent of vegetable oils (canola, soybean, corn, etc) has changed this radically. and the average western diet now contains Omega 6's to Omega 3's at a ratio of around 15 to 1 and up to 40 to 1.  This is a long way from the ideal ratio most researchers agree on of between 4 to 1 and 1 to 1.

This shift to Omega-6-rich oils has had serious consequences for our bodies and brains.

The signaling molecules produced from Omega 6's, while necessary, are also highly inflammatory when allowed to accumulate beyond optimal levels.

While the signaling molecules produced from Omega 3's are also technically pro-inflammatory, they are only minimally so, particularly when compared Omega 6.  

What this means is that eating a diet high in Omega 6 oils will lead to systemic inflammation in the body and brain. Unfortunately, because of the proliferation of vegetable oils over the past 40 years, this is a condition the vast majority of people in the western world suffer from.

Inflammation: The Enemy

I've spent a lot of words over the past few years explaining why reducing inflammation in the body needs to be a top priority for anyone seeking dramatic improvements in the way their body and brain looks, feels and performs.

Inflammation in the body leads to lower energy levels, increased weight gain, and increased risk for literally hundreds of diseases. [5][6]

Inflammation in the body quickly leads to inflammation in the brain, which in the short term causes "foggy brain" and in the longer term can lead to more serious conditions like depression, Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases. [7][8]

For more detail on what inflammation is and why it's so damaging for the body and brain, I highly recommend checking out my three part series on inflammation and the best ways to reduce it.

Reduce Omega 6s = Reduce Inflammation

As I mentioned above, Omega 3's and Omega 6's "compete" in the body for the enzymes that convert them into signaling molecules.  

Eating diet that increases your ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 will, over time, decrease levels of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules and lead to greatly reduced systemic inflammation. [9]

Unfortunately, this is not quite as simple as just adding Omega 3 oils to your diet. Being aware of sources of Omega 6's and actively reducing them in your diet is equally as important as adding Omega 3's.

Below is a table of the oils that have the highest Omega 6 content:

Any food containing any of these oils should be on your "use sparingly" or "avoid completely" lists.

Why Supplementing With Omega 3's Is Necessary

It is a reality of living in the western world that high-Omega-6 plant oils are everywhere.  Even the most diligent eater will likely have Omega 6 levels that are too high.  

You can avoid them entirely at home, but if you go out to eat it's likely that your food will be prepared with vegetable oils that are high in Omega 6's.  Reducing Omega 6 consumption is critical and necessary, but it is not enough.

Supplementing with additional Omega 3's is the only way to have your Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio approach the 4:1 to 1:1 ratio we're looking for.

The Problem With Plant-Based Omega 3 Supplements

There are many sources of Omega 3's, but they are not created equal.  Choose the wrong source and your body could not be absorbing even close to the amount you need - or even worse, you could be eating a toxic supplement.

There are a number of plant sources of Omega 3's, but all have their own problems.  Hemp oil, walnut oil and several other nut oils are decent sources of Omega 3's, but still have all have far more Omega 6's than 3's.  As such, they won't do much to help bring your EFA's into balance.

Flax Oil and Chia are the only two common plant oils that are legitimate sources of Omega 3's.  Flax has an Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio of 40:1, so at first glance it looks like an excellent candidate for supplementation.  

Unfortunately, first glances are deceiving.  The specific type of Omega 3's found in flax oil and chia (ALA) is not absorbed or used very efficiently by the body.  ALA must be converted by the metabolism into DHA or EPA to be useful to the body, and this is an inefficient process in which a lot of ALA goes to waste.  

Because of this inefficiency, you would have to eat 40 GRAMS of flax oil to deliver the same amount of useable Omega 3's that 1 GRAM of fish oil would deliver.  

Flax oil is also extremely vulnerable to oxidation, a process in which light or heat ruin the oil and make it toxic.  It also has organic molecules called ligands that mimic estrogen in the body (yes, this is bad).

So while you could technically eat A TON of flax oil to balance your Omega 3's and 6's, it's certainly not the best route, especially when there are better options available. 

If you absolutely need your Omega 3 supplement to be plant based, marine phytoplankton is a far superior (if absurdly expensive) source. 

Fish Oil and Krill Oil

At this point, I've settled on high-quality, tested-clean fish oils is the best source for Omega 3 supplementation.

Contamination with heavy metals and other toxins can be an issue with low-grade fish oils, so making sure your fish oil is tested and verified to be free of contaminants is important.

I'm currently using a product from Omega Via that meets all these requirements. It's the highest quality fish oil I've come across and manages to deliver that quality without being unreasonably expensive as some other fish oils are. See Omega Via Pharma-Grade Omega 3 here.

Another option is krill oil, something I've used in the past and would return to again without reservation. 

Krill oil is generally free of contaminants as it comes from tiny low-food-chain organisms. Unlike plant sources or fish oil, the Omega 3's in krill oil are in phosphorylated form, allowing for superior absorbability.

The best krill oil I've found for the price is Jarrow Krill Oil.

Stay Synchro, 

Graham Ryan


Looking for more on better dietary strategies?

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The Truth About Caffeine and Coffee

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How Antioxidant-Rich Superfoods Slow Aging And Arthritis

Most people tend to assume that an erosion of the body’s vitality is an inevitable process that comes with aging.

While to an extent this is indeed the case, it’s also true that “aging” in the body is fundamentally just a series of biochemical processes. I find this fact to be incredibly empowering. Here’s why:

We all alter our body’s biochemistry nearly every day to achieve specific goals (think caffeine changing our adrenal output or a piece of fruit raising blood sugar).

If we can identify the biochemical processes that drive aging, slowing “aging” simply becomes a matter of eating the foods and supplements that slow these biochemical processes.

Oxidative Stress And Aging

Aging is not a singular process, of course, it’s actually dozens of interrelated diseases and processes in the body.  That being said, if you asked me to point to one single factor that drives nearly all of the aging-related processes, my answer would be quite easy - it’s unquestionably oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is the term biochemists use to refer to the damage done to our cells by oxidative toxins in the body.

These toxins come from a number of places - contaminants in our food, chemicals in our environment, radiation (UV and electromagnetic). As we age, even our own body produces oxidative toxins as a natural byproduct of many metabolic processes.

Oxidative stress and the systemic inflammation caused by these toxins lead to a slow deterioration of nearly every system in our body - including our eyes, brain, joints and muscles. [1]

Oxidative Stress And Disease

A significant number of age-related diseases have been shown to be fundamentally caused by the effects of oxidative stress on our cells and bodies:

Neurodegenerative Diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia are good examples of this, as both result from the cumulative damage done to brain cells by oxidative toxins. [1]

Cardiovascular Disease is largely driven by oxidative stress as well, as systemic inflammation due to high levels of oxidative toxins is the primary cause for the progression of heart disease. [2]

Rheumatoid Arthritis, however, is perhaps the most clearly attributable to oxidative stress.   Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition that results when the immune system attacks connective tissue in the body.

Recent studies have shown us that the severity of the immune attack on the connective tissue increases dramatically when high levels of oxidative toxins are present. [3]  In fact, minimizing the stress caused by oxidative toxins is one of the most effective strategies we have for managing this potentially debilitating condition. [4]

Are Antioxidants An Anti-Aging Solution?

It’s clear that minimizing oxidative stress in the body and brain can have a profound effect in slowing the progression of aging and age-related diseases - so what is the best way to minimize oxidative stress?

Antioxidants are organic molecules that have the capacity to inhibit the oxidation of other molecules by oxidative toxins. [5]  Our bodies themselves produce a number of extremely potent antioxidant enzymes (known as endogenous antioxidants), intended to counter the effects of oxidative stress on the body and slow the progression of age-related diseases.

Frequently though, our body’s endogenous antioxidants get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of oxidative toxins we’re exposed to by our toxic modern environment and food system. This is where dietary antioxidants come in.

Dozens of studies have shown that consuming high levels of antioxidants in the diet can significantly reduce oxidative stress and systemic inflammation in the body. [5]  The implications of this reduction in oxidative stress in slowing the progression of age-related disease are hard to underestimate.  

Indeed, eating high levels of dietary antioxidants have been shown to slow the progression of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. [2][3][4]

In addition to antioxidants, there is a related type of toxin-neutralizing nutrient called chelators that have also been shown to be tremendously effective in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.  Chelators are particularly valuable because they work to neutralize certain types of toxins (particularly heavy metals like mercury) against which food-based antioxidants are not effective.

For this reason, having significant amounts of both antioxidants and chelators in your diet is the best strategy for minimizing oxidative stress in the body.

Finding Antioxidants In Your Foods

Antioxidants are naturally-occurring compounds found in nearly every fruit and vegetable known to man.  The challenge is finding foods with sufficiently high levels of antioxidants to meaningfully reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.

Traditional “antioxidant-rich” foods like blueberries, raspberries and green tea can contain several times more antioxidants than other commonly available fruits and vegetables, but it would still be a challenge to consume enough of these foods to have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect.

For true therapeutic levels of antioxidants useful in slowing the aging-related processes discussed above, we have to look a bit further in the food world.

In the past 10 years or so as demand for therapeutic levels of antioxidants has risen, two exotic foods in particular - Raw Cacao and Acai - have come to prominence as the planet’s richest source of antioxidants.

  1.  Raw cacao comes from the beans of the cacao tree, the same plant used to make the world’s chocolate. When left in raw, unprocessed form, the levels of antioxidants in cacao are off the charts - on the order of 20 times greater than even traditional antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries.

  2. Acai is a rare tropical berry found only in very small areas of the Amazon rainforest. It’s discovery by the west was somewhat of a revelation, as it contains antioxidants in level several times greater than what was thought possible for this type of fruit. Acai contains levels of antioxidants up to 50 times greater than leafy greens like spinach and kale.

There is a catch with raw cacao and acai, however. It is consistently challenging to find a high-quality source for these superfoods, and even more challenging to include them in your diet on a daily basis as is necessary for therapeutic effects. For that reason, we highly recommend the delicious superfood nutritional shake, Synchro Genesis.

We've worked tirelessly to source only the highest-quality raw cacao and acai available on the market today and both are included in Synchro Genesis in true therapeutic quantities. To get the same levels of antioxidants present in one serving of Synchro Genesis, you would have to eat upwards of 5 cups of blueberries.

In addition to the exceptional levels of antioxidants, Synchro Genesis contains chlorella and spirulina - nature’s two most powerful plant-based chelators (see discussion above) which work in the body to actively remove heavy metals and other toxins.

Stay Synchro,

Graham Ryan

Looking For More On Supplementation?  Check out:

Top 3 Critical Vitamin + Mineral Supplements (Supplementation Series - Part 2 of 3)

Fixing Your Nutrient Deficiencies (Supplementation Series - Part 3 of 3)

Power Your Brain with Creatine Supplementation










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