Heart Health

3 Useful Health Tips From a Fish Oil Expert

written by Vin Kutty

comments 0 comments

fish oil supplement

Valuable Lessons About Omega-3 and fish consumption

Dr. Bill Lands is one of my science heroes.

And I had the pleasure of listening to him speak at this year’s Natural Foods Expo in Anaheim.

Dr. Lands was Professor of Biochemistry at Univ. of Michigan and Univ of Illinois. He’s authored over 250 scientific papers and wrote the book Fish, Omega-3 and Human Health. He’s received several awards (too many to list here) and is one of the world’s 1000 most cited scientists.

Dr. Lands is one of the most down-to-earth and engaging scientists you’ll ever meet. During a recent lecture, I expected him to talk about Omega-3, what they are and why we need to take them.

What I got was something even more useful.

LESSON #1: Fish consumption’s Effect on Health Care Cost

During the talk, I wished our politicians and health policy makers were listening.

Why?

He mentioned that the average annual healthcare cost per person in the US was: $7,681 as of 2008.

I’m sure it’s higher now.

To highlight how this affects profits of companies, and ultimately the employment rate, he worked with a very large company.

In this company, he found that:

  • Average health care cost per employee: $5,184/year
  • Average health care cost for employees getting adequate Omega-3 from fish: $2,076*

That’s a 60% reduction in total health care costs!

For a mid-size company with 500 employees, that’s over $1.5 million in savings every year!

For the country as a whole, that’s $2 trillion savings. Yes, that’s trillion, with a T.

Just from taking fish oil.*

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

LESSON #2: Cholesterol is a Poor Predictor of Heart Health

You won’t hear this from your doctor.

And scientists don’t talk about this either. That’s because cholesterol is still widely believed to be the big, bad bogeyman of poor heart health. And makers of cholesterol-lowering drugs are big sponsors of research in cash-strapped universities.

I supposed being retired affords Dr. Lands greater freedom of speech.

Dr. Lands mentioned that we’ve known that Total cholesterol is not a good predictor of heart health for at least 15 years.

Lowering cholesterol is not going to dramatically decrease your risk of death from poor heart health.

To explain this, he pointed out that in Japan, if you had high cholesterol, you were slightly less likely to die of poor heart health. But in the US, high cholesterol usually meant higher risk of death from poor heart health.

How is it that high cholesterol reduces death in Japan but increases it here in the US?

This is mostly because of lifestyle factors like diet. Japanese have several lifestyle and eating habits that differ from us:

  • Japanese eat more fish than we do. Could it be that the high levels of Omega-3 in their diet makes the difference?
  • Japanese also don’t have a sweet tooth.
  • Japanese eat a lot of seaweed, which is rich in iodine.
  • They drink a lot of green tea and the only grain they consume in quantity is rice.
  • Finally, not much wheat consumption going on there.

Americans drink 10 times more soda and soft drinks than the Japanese – see this chart.

Diet and other blood markers (very low density lipoprotein VLDL, triglycerides, Apo B etc.) are much better predictors of heart health, not total cholesterol.

This was Dr. Lands’ point. Measuring and fussing over cholesterol is like checking your car’s health by looking at the oil dipstick. You might know that the oil needs changing. But you certainly won’t know if the transmission is about to blow.

LESSON #3: Reducing Fats in Blood – What Works?

Most doctors and scientists agree that too much fat in the blood is a red flag.

Your doctor or cardiologist may put you on a prescription lipid-lowering medication.

You might also be sent to a a dietitian. (This is the grown-up’s version of being sent to the Principal’s office.)

Does dieting work? How ’bout Lipitor? Niacin? Or lowly fish oil?

Dr. Lands walked us through a study that compared the results of all these blood fat-lowering techniques. It’s a combined evaluation of the results of 97 clinical studies with over 140,000 persons.

This study compared:
Statins – popular cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Lipitor, Mevacor, Crestor, Zocor and the like.
Niacin – this is a B-Vitamin, sold under prescription as Niaspan or over-the-counter as Sloniacin or Enduracin.
Resins – also known as bile-sequestrants. Drugs such as Questran and Colestid. Not used much anymore due to side effects.
Fibrates – another older class of drugs that include Tricor and Lopid.
Diet – getting a good ol’ talkin’ to from a nutritionist or dietitian on what to eat and avoid.

The scale of effectiveness goes from 0 to 2.

What Works For Cardiac Mortality

Scale:
0 = works really well
1 = neutral (neither good nor bad; don’t bother)
2 = placebo is better (waste of money)
So closer to zero the better.
Niacin (Niaspan, Sloniacin, Enduracin)0.95
Fibrates (Tricor, Lopid)0.93
Diet Consultation0.91
Statins (Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor etc.)0.78
Resins (Questran, Colestid)0.70

 

What Works For Overall Mortality

Scale:
0 = works really well
1 = neutral (neither good nor bad; don’t bother)
2 = placebo is better (waste of money)
So closer to zero the better.
Fibrates1.00
Diet Consultation0.97
Niacin0.96
Statins0.87
Resins (Questran, Colestid)0.84



I would argue that diet ought to be left out of this comparison. There are too many variables with diet.

Besides, most dietitians will put you on a low-fat, high whole grain diet, which despite sounding super healthy, will only help you meet your maker sooner than you’d planned. But that’s another gripe (blog post?) for another day.

I’m sure if you followed a diet outlined by, say someone like cardiologist Dr. William Davis, you’d notice a huge lowering in risk and blood lipids.

Bottom-line, Dr. Bill Lands did not disappoint. Wish you could have been there.

Look out for another blog about Dr. Lands’ pet project, ‘Nix the 6, Eat the 3‘, where he attempts to get everyone in Morgan County, West Virginia to reduce their Omega-6 consumption and increase Omega-3.


* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Leave a Reply