Robert Rowen, MD • Terri Su, MD
Fish and Marine Oil Toxicity
A summary of major problems by Robert Rowen, MD
Is fish oil the new fluoride? “What!?” you ask. “How can you relate a food product to a toxic mineral?” If you’re familiar with a book I recently co-authored, you know that I can, and I’ll summarize it all here for you. I know you’ve likely been told to take fish oil by some health care provider. So, this report has a lot of importance for you. It can save you and your loved ones’ life!
Let’s begin with the basics. Both fluoride and fish oil are waste products of their respective industries. Fluoride comes as a waste material from the fertilizer and aluminum industries. Fish oil is a waste product of the fish industry. The manufacturers found a way to make each waste product into a “must have”. Just like fluoride has become a fable for children’s teeth ¾marine oil has become a fabled “must have” for circulation and overall health. With both substances being waste products, and both now etched into medical lore, and you knowing that fluoride is toxic, all I need to show you is the danger and ineffectiveness of marine oil as well to declare that it’s “the new fluoride.”
Fluoride is generated from the fertilizer and aluminum industry. One important component of fertilizer is phosphorus. Unfortunately, its raw ore contains 2-4% fluoride. The fluoride is removed through scrubbers and acid leaching forming the extremely toxic fluorsilicic acid as waste. In the case of aluminum, the extraction process to pull aluminum from the ore involves releasing a lot of waste fluoride. So, please know that these two industries have a major problem. They are refining out one of the most toxic substances on the planet. Fluoride is a known enzyme poison. Even if it were effective, its margin of safety is exceptionally tiny. I know you’ve read about fluoride. I’ll give you some most interesting updated information in a future issue on its relation to Alzheimer’s disease.
What’ s the solution for the industries holding the fluoride waste? Brainwashing with horrible pseudo “science”¾both citizens and public officials¾ into believing that fluoride is a safe and necessary “nutrient.” This way, instead of morally and ethically bearing the heavy cost of disposing of it (how do you really dispose of a poison?) the companies make money be bilking cities at your expense to dump it into your water. What a gas. Instead of paying royally to safely dispose of a toxin, the companies get paid royally to “feed” the poison directly to you. Likewise, so do the purveyors of marine oil.
I lump the whole group of oils from the ocean into the term “marine oil.” These include oils from salmon, mackerel, cod, krill, and any oily see creature generally from colder climates. Only one version of marine oil comes form plant life and it’s found in the product called Neuromins, extracted from algae, a rich source of DHA. Otherwise, all marine oils are extracted from waste products of the fishing industry. “Waste? You mean like fluoride?” Yes. “How is that?”
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN admits that the raw material used in the preparation of fish oil have little edible value.
The original three categories have similarities; the fish are of little edible use or the raw material is a waste and of no edible value and in fact may present a potential disposal problem and the raw material contains a high percentage of oil and or bones.
The latter two categories, by catch and offal [internal organs and entrails] produce small volumes of oil compared to the volume produced from whole fish because the traditionally edible species are primarily non-fatty and generally classified as "white fish.” However salmon and tuna for example do contain oil in the heads [emphasis added] and these are processed to provide fish oil.[i]
OK, so we know that fluoride and fish oil are waste products, and that fluoride is a toxin. But fish oil? Toxic? Let’s examine the evidence and the logic.
First, fish oil is NOT the essential fatty acids you hear about. There are only two real essential fatty acids: omega 6 (linoleic acid) and omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid). My fatty acid mentor / leading expert in the field and co-author Prof. Brian Peskin* terms them “Parent Essential Oils”¾PEOs.
All you really need are these two fatty acids and your body can make the rest of the omega 3 and 6 series, called the derivatives. Hence, the derivatives are not essential. Only the parents are essential. These oils come strictly from plants. Enzymes in your body further elongate the 18-carbon chain PEOs into 20 and 22 carbon chain and more unsaturated DERIVATIVES as needed on demand, which derivatives I will call LCPUFAs for long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Marine oil contains significant LCPUFAs¾EPA and DHA ¾its so-called “active ingredients.” EPA is 20 carbons long with 5 unsaturated bonds. DHA is 22 carbons long with 6 unsaturated bonds. Why might cold-water fish be loaded with these? Because such unsaturated oils are very liquid at cold temperatures, enabling the cell membranes of the fish to have flexibility and function in frigid waters. They act like “anti-freeze” for fish. Humans don’t require this.
Now consider something else. Those waters are real cold and have low oxygen tension. At room temperature and in our oxygen rich environment, we know that the fish oils quickly become rancid. Just smell a 2-day dead fish (even just one day can be tough if not refrigerated). These oils are extremely vulnerable to oxidation (rancidity). In fact, DHA, with is 6 double bonds, is a whopping 340 more times susceptible to oxidation/rancidity than monounsaturated oleic acid from olive oil. The oils in a fish oil capsule start to autooxidize (rancidity) instantly in your body. Why? Because, unlike a salmon, which lives at about 34°F, your body is about 98°F and is oxygen rich. Heat and oxygen don’t mix well with the highly vulnerable marine oils.
But the pundits tell you that you have a God made defect in that your body only converts 1% of the two essential fatty acids you ingest. They call this “slow.” So, to correct the God made error in you, they’ll have you load yourself with the derivatives. WRONG, wrong, wrong…
I have a much different philosophy than the pundits. First, I don’t believe that God makes mistakes. If human conversion of EFAs into derivatives is only 1%, it has to be for a reason. And, it sure is.
Your body only needs so much conversion of anything. For example, your body converts cholesterol you eat into sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone. These are “derivatives” of cholesterol. Ladies, do you want to be taking masculinizing testosterone simply as a supplement? Men, do you want to grow breasts with supplemental estrogen? Of course not. Ladies and gentlemen, do you want to be stuffing omega 3 rancidity susceptible oils into your skin when virtually no omega 3 oils belong there due to the oxidizing (burning) action of sunlight? Do you want to be stuffing in highly oxygen vulnerable omega 3 derivatives into your mitochondria (cell furnaces) where combustion will immediately oxidize those oils and age your energy furnaces?
Mitochondria, like skin, have little or no omega 3 oils due to such vulnerability. For this reason—your body made by God—carefully controls its conversion of PEOs to the highly vulnerable fatty acids to about 1%. When you take supplemental marine oils, you overcome the protection God gave you. Normally recommended amounts of fish oil often equate to taking pharmacological (overdose) amounts of highly reactive compounds your body needs sparingly. Your skin and highly vulnerable energy furnaces become susceptible to irreversible damage. I don’t believe that God made mistakes, so I fervently disagree with the pundits that our conversion rate is “slow.” I believe, as Prof. Peskin does too, it was created deliberately in the wisdom of our Creator, and our efforts to overcome that wisdom with supplements, except in extraordinary circumstances, is foolhardy at best, and downright dangerous at worst.
Now let’s turn to the older studies claiming a benefit for fish oil. These, more often than not, were greatly flawed in methodology. In a 2012 meta-analysis regarding cardiovascular disease, reviewing 1,007 articles, only 14 studies met the criteria of randomization, double blindness, and placebo control.[ii] For me, as a clinician, the matter is worse. You see the studies were VERY rarely controlled against PEOs. And when they were so compared, the PEOs won hands down! And the year 2013 was a killer for fish oil. Three highly significant fish oil study failures were published.
In May 2013, an Italian group released a major study on marine oil for patients with high risk factors but no previous heart attack. Fish oil failed in all measures of cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention—both primary and secondary[iii]. This study was so conclusive that highly respected Eric Topol, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Medscape and Medscape’s Heartwire for cardiologists, issued a new directive to patients to stop taking fish oil, that is, long-chain EFA metabolites of EPA/DHA. The May 2013 trial3 showed that macular degeneration victims were not helped despite fish oil’s significant DHA content.[iv] The year 2013 was very bad for fish oil findings. Why the failures?
Let’s turn to logic first. Our bodies are made for ingestion of PEOs, which are fully functional. What does that mean? A ladder with broken footholds might be the right length, but you’ll come crashing down. Oils are the same. A major problem of the SAD (standard American diet) is that our alleged “foods” are loaded with oils that have been heated and highly processed. That loads our cells with adulterated (trans, oxidized and rancid) oils, like a painter standing on a damaged rung of a ladder. This is one of the great and poorly understood causes of disease of our times. Fish oil cannot repair this damage. Only ingestion of non-adulterated, organically grown and processed plant-based oils will correct the problem. That is why fish oil has to fail. But what of the possibility of toxicity?
In 2013, a landmark article appeared in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It confirmed prior post-2007 findings of increased prostate cancer risk among men with high blood concentrations of marine oil type lipids. The authors warned, “The consistency of these findings suggests that these fatty acids [EPA / DHA] are involved in prostate tumorigenesis.” They argued for reconsideration of marine oil use!
True, marine oils can lower inflammation in isolated cases. But so does supplemental cortisone (aka steroids). This forced inhibition of inflammation comes at a price whether done with steroids or marine oils. Let’s look at the potential carnage of supplemental fish oil. All references to these findings can be found in the new book I co-authored with Prof. Peskin, entitled PEO Solution. In that book, I became the first person in history to resolve the “French Paradox”, the mystery of the French eating such rich foods yet having a far lower risk of heart disease than do we Americans. I’ll give you the resolution at the end of this report— as a bonus!
When you take supplemental fish oil, you forcibly cause your cells to increase the proportion of the very long chain polyunsaturated (PUFAs) fatty acids, which otherwise is very carefully controlled by each organ in your body. For example, your skin ratio of omega 6:3 is 1000:1. For your brain, it’s more like 100:1. Not only does fish oil improperly force and increase LCPUFAs in your cell membranes, but also overdoses your mitochondria, which absolutely don’t want the rancid prone omega 3 series. Your mitochondria are the equivalent of blast furnaces. The vulnerability of LCPUFAs in your mitochondria would be analogous to replacing the steel walls of a blast furnace with copper, which would oxidize and crumble. Force-feeding these critical structures marine oils is a sure way to age them.
And when you overdo your skin with LCPUFAs, you may make yourself more vulnerable to melanoma. Norway is struggling to determine the cause of high melanoma rates in a country with little sun, but LOTS of marine oil. And, what finally kicked me over the edge against marine oil was a well-done study on primates (monkeys) fed marine oil. Their livers took up the LCPUFAs and quickly suffered extensive peroxidation damage. Their livers also exhausted their supply of vitamin E in a failed attempt to stop the damage. No amount of vitamin E could fully stop rancidity damage in primates fed marine oils. Even popular cod liver oil is problematic here. A study on 6 human subjects taking the oil found all of them to have increases in very harmful MDA, an aldehyde toxic molecule with properties similar to formaldehyde—embalming fluid. MDA and other markers of oxidative damage increase in fish oil users due to the high vulnerability of LCPUFAs to become rancid. To the contrary, these studies did not find that enriching the diet of animals with PEOs induced oxidative damage! So it’s not just unsaturated fatty acids causing the damage, but the LCPUFAs. That makes sense, as PEOs are what your body wants and NEEDS, not LCPUFAs from fish oil.
Let’s now logically consider if you really need to ingest fish oil at all. It is well accepted that humans were CREATED on or evolved on the plains of Africa. Now lump those early humans together with our closest cousins in nature today. Were they eating cold-water fish? Modern apes, with digestive tracts similar to ours, are nearly 100% vegetarian. The early humans would have had NO access to omega 3 rich fish in Africa. So, logically, our need for consumption of marine oil and its supplements must be low, and the conversion of PEOs to the LCPUFAs as designed by the Creator must be for a reason. And consider the longest living human societies on the planet. Of the 5, only one group, those in Okinawa, consume fish. Most of the rest are largely vegetarians eating ripe foods grown on rich soils. I am a vegetarian for spiritual reasons. I’ve had my omega fats checked and I fall well into the reference range eating NO marine oils! Most vegetarians also will have well over 80% of the EPA and DHA that fish eaters have in their bloodstream. And, that’s enough!
For those technically inclined, consider: Your body will naturally convert only about 0.25% of a 600 mg ALA supplement into EPA, or about just 1.5 mg. For the longer and more unsaturated DHA, you’ll convert that supplement to about 0.35 mg. If you take even a single capsule of marine oils containing 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA, you are getting a 120 and 340 times overdose of these vulnerable fatty acids compared to your own body’s conversion wisdom. This should give you great pause for concern. I offer you this example:
A 2010 article by Universtiy of Michigan’s Jennifer Fenton said, “The problems with fish oil” are not new.” “Our findings support a growing body of literature implicating harmful effects of high doses of fish oil consumption in relation to certain disease.” “Currently, there is a call by academics and the food industry to establish dietary guidelines for omega-3 consumption.” “With fish oil, we don’t yet know how much is appropriate.” Contrary to what she set out to study, she said, "We found that mice developed deadly, late-stage colon cancer when given high doses of fish oil," she said. "More importantly, with the increased inflammation, it only took four weeks for the tumors to develop."[v]
Now let’s consider some greatly overlooked factors in the oil debates. Research has confirmed that it is not animal fat, not butter, not lard, and not vegetable fat that is linked to vascular disease. It is toxic or adulterated oils. These include trans fats from hydrogenated oils, rancid fats from heated oils and fried foods. These have NO place in your physiology. The average American diet is overloaded with toxic fats. These oils get incorporated (forced) into your cell membranes, which, believe it or not, may be the controlling factor in your DNA activity. The cell membrane is like a keyboard to your hard drive. Your keyboard controls it. And so, we are learning that the real action in health is occurring at your cell membrane. One key function of cell membrane is to permit oxygen into the cell. I often wondered how cells, with an oily membrane, permitted oxygen to pass through. The secret is in the omega 6—not omega 3—fatty acid content. The former has the ability to latch on to oxygen from without the cell and release it within the cell suffering no damage. Omega 3 oils can suffer oxidative damage, as you’ve seen. And, since parent omega 6 is essential to pass oxygen into your cells, a deficiency of unadulterated, fully functional omega 6 can lead to cellular oxygen starvation.
How might this problem occur in reality? By consumption of most supermarket’s adulterated oils which are incorporated into your membranes but are not fully functional. If you have a dysfunctional door, you might not be able to get into your room. It’s the same with dysfunctional oils in your cell membranes. Oxygen and other essential nutrients might be barred entry, and waste products might be barred exit. And, when you overdose on rancid-prone marine oil supplements, you are foiling the natural wisdom of your body’s protection of these crucial membranes.
Parent oils, especially of the scorned omega 6 series are absolutely critical for your life. For example, the pundits scare you into thinking that omega 6 is responsible for inflammation. Simultaneously, they neglect to tell you that your most important vascular lubricators, key anti-inflammatory compounds, and circulatory protection molecules are PGE1 and prostacyclin—both of which are 100% derived from Parent omega 6. These are molecules you really want, and they can’t be made from adulterated omega 6 or from intact omega 3 or fish oil. It’s likely for this reason that Prof. Peskin’s IOWA study saw PEOs shellacking fish oil. The PEO users were a whopping 11 years biologically younger in their arteries once the fish oil stopped and the PEOs began. And it just took about 6 months to get these results.
Overseen by an interventional cardiologist, this study measured arterial flexibility via DPA photoplethysmography —a well-accepted test for arterial aging. Substituting PEOs for fish oil in the volunteers actually REVERSED arterial age, exactly opposite what the fish oil promoters would tell you. This is key information directly pitting PEOs against overdoses of derivatives. PEOs remedied the aging induced by the marine oils. (I took the same test, and on no supplements, relying on my diet alone. My arterial age came in 30 years less than my actual age!)
The issue is NOT vegetarian vs. carnivore, nor am I encouraging you to become vegetarian. In our book PEO Solution, I cracked the French Paradox, which, I promised you, I would reveal here. The French eat a lot of meat and rich foods, but have far less heart disease than do we. My predecessor in these pages encouraged you to do the same. It took an organic raw food near vegan like me to see the connection between the low vascular disease rates of the carnivorous French and the vegetarian world.
The French cook their food in BUTTER! Butter has a low smoke point and can’t be heated too high, risking the taste, and which would destroy other crucial nutrients like happens with the high heat of vegetable oil cooked food. Butter smokes around 160 C. Vegetable oils smoke at much higher temperatures, enabling far greater heat alteration of molecules into forms never found in nature.
Now remember, I am a clinician, not a scientist. I observe effects in people and patients and apply my observations in the field. I’ve been to India several times and do volunteer work in a charitable hospital with my wife. In this region, the people are mostly hard working peasants and vegetarian. Hence, they are not eating the typical horrible American diet. Yet we were shocked to see advanced vascular diseases and diabetes in otherwise young (30’s) and slender people, unlike the obese and older age groups we see it in here. And this is in spite of the fact that they use tons of the protective miracle spice turmeric.
I meditated on it for just one night and realized why. The Indians cook their food to oblivion IN OIL—Highly unsaturated (and therefore heat vulnerable) mustard oil to be specific! Hence, they have totally destroyed the nutritional content of their food while ingesting absolutely toxic oil. An oil that would be better off brushed on their furniture like shellac—boiled (heated) linseed (flax) oil. Flax oil is widely consumed, even as a supplement. But look at what heat does to it by applying some to a piece of wood and feel it get tacky like plastic overnight. That’s exactly what happens in your body with the oxidation of oils! Yes, you should be very concerned if you have been consuming marine / fish oil supplements
I am an organic raw food near vegan (I eat some dairy). I eat this way for spiritual reasons, not wanting to kill a creature. So, I don’t lean on others to be vegetarian. But my health is outstanding and I have the blood pressure of a young adolescent, and, with no fish oil!
But in the meantime, I strongly encourage you to immediately cease using marine oils. If you eat a largely uncooked Living Food diet, you are likely getting all the PEOs you need (as do I). If your history is more of the SAD diet, you might want to consider a PEO supplement of high quality that is regularly tested for oxidation (rancidity). I recommend a plant based EFA product to my patients needing PEO supplementation. I’ll admit it took a few years of Prof. Peskin beating me with articles on the subject and thoroughly connecting all the dots. However, I got ahead of him at times and when I found the study on primate livers being knocked out with marine oils, I jumped off the fish oil bandwagon for good. As this information disseminates amongst my colleagues, more and more are abandoning fish oil and its bogus science. Yes, there may be a few people fish oil can benefit, those with genetically defective conversion (far less than the normal 1% conversion of PEOs to LCPUFAs). However, I stand on the recommendation that anyone using fish oil should be monitored for overdose by having regular blood tests for fatty acids. Hence, the blanket use by the population of fish oil, in this clinician’s opinion, while forcibly reducing inflammation in the short run like a steroidal effect (if at all) is a prescription for premature aging and cellular collapse in the long run.
If still skeptical, I encourage you to read my co-authored book
* Brian Peskin earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) in 1979. He received an appointment as an Adjunct Professor at Texas Southern University in the Department of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (1998-1999). The former president of the University said of Brian's discoveries: "...His nutritional discoveries and practical applications through Life-Systems Engineering are unprecedented."
[ii] S. M. Kwak, S. K. Myung, Y. J. Lee, and H. G. Seo, “Efficacy of Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind, placebo- controlled trials,” Archives of Internal Medicine, vol. 172, no. 9, pp. 686–694, 2012.
[iii] The Risk and Prevention Study Collaborative Group, “n-3 fatty acids in patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors,” The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 368, no. 19, pp. 1800–1808, 2013.
[iv] AREDS2 Research Group, “Lutein + Zeaxanthin and Omega-3 fatty acids for age-related macular degeneration: the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Randomized Clinical trial,” Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 309, no. 19, pp. 2005–2015, 2013.
[v] http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2010/fish-oil-linked-to-increased-risk-of-colon-cancer-in-mice/Type your paragraph here.