Fish Oil Health Benefits

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Fish oil health benefits are exaggerated, says a new study appearing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. And yet, it warns, increased consumer demand for fish oil is pushing fish populations to the brink.

Medical scientists from St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto have teamed with researchers from the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Centre and author Farley Mowat to closely examine the effects of health claims with regard to seafood.

For years, international agencies concerned with health and nutrition have promoted seafood consumption. "Our concern is that fish stocks are under extreme pressure globally and that studies are still urgently required to define precisely who will benefit from fish oil," says Dr. David J. A. Jenkins, a doctor at St. Michael's Hospital and a professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine's Department of Nutritional Sciences.

"Further, if we decide that fish oil supplementation is necessary for good health, then unicellular sources of 'fish oil' like algae, yeasts, etc, should now be used, as they are in infant formula," adds Dr. Jenkins.

While some studies have reported fish oil health benefits healthy benefits, others have failed to show a significant effect. But these negative studies are often ignored and the result has been increased demand for seafood by consumers in the developed world, often at the expense of food security in developing nations.

"Governments and industry tell consumers to eat more fish because it is healthy," explains Rashid Sumaila, director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at UBC Fisheries Centre and study co-author. "But where do we get these fish? They are increasingly coming from the waters around Africa and other places where food security is a problem."

At best, fish oils are just one factor out of many that may reduce ailments such as heart disease and researchers found that people who do not eat fish, such as vegetarians, are...
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