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Re: international fish oil standards torrid

Posted by larryhoover on May 31, 2011, at 22:41:20

In reply to Re: international fish oil standards larryhoover, posted by torrid on May 31, 2011, at 9:44:11

I'm an environmental toxicologist (retired), and I spent many years studying the toxicity of PCBs, dioxins, furans, and so on. Some of these pollutants were found to have biological activity at part per trillion concentrations, making them as potent as hormones. At somewhat higher concentrations, they could promote tumour growth in lab animals, so we put out some strong warnings about them.

I'll give you some historical background, to give you some context for the warnings themselves in the context of fish. In the '70s and '80s, we realized that people who ate a lot of fish had better health outcomes: longer life, fewer heart/circulatory problems, less cognitive decline as they aged. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids got much of the credit for that, but there are other fine nutrients in fish as well. Anyway, fish was elevated to a healthy food, and fish oils became popular supplements for those who didn't like fish.

But there was a bit of quandary, from a toxicological perspective. Even though the people who ate a lot of fish for decades had better health outcomes, those fish were horribly polluted. After WWII, acid rain was rampant, and was liberating mercury long before we realized that was the case. Pesticides were far more commonplace, and used far more indiscriminately. Manufacturing waste was routinely dumped into waterways. There were no scrubbers on smokestacks, and incineration was a common way to deal with trash. These heavily polluted fish from the '40s, '50s, and '60s made people who ate them healthier than those who didn't, when we looked at their health in the '70s and '80s, but we had no idea before then of all of the toxic waste that bioaccumulated in the higher level fish predators, the ones we most like to eat. We didn't have the analytical methods required to identify the hazardous chemicals, either. Just as a comparison, eggs and dairy products in Britain in the '70s were more polluted than are farmed salmon from the year 2000. We have really come a long way in controlling pollution over the last four or five decades.

And, we've discovered that a little bit of dioxin is actually protective against other cancer-causing toxins, so the picture is murkier still.

Sorry, what was the question?

I wouldn't worry too much about whether you're getting farmed or wild caught fish. Wild is better, but farmed isn't all that bad. Over 90% of the dioxins and PCBs in our diets come to us in meat and dairy products.

The issue of EPA and DHA content of trout and salmon depends entirely on their diet. I can find you some tables to look at (if they're still online), but I'll have to look around for them.

Here are some journal articles you may find interesting:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18579573
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18648613

Lar

 

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