Omega-3 has been described as a superfood for many years due to its ability to aid the body in fighting certain diseases, according to several studies. With a huge rise in scientific research about the superfood also comes the rise of myths surrounding its powers and sources. Nutritional misconceptions about the product have always been present and while most have been debunked, more are surfacing on conspiracy websites. Some may be vulnerable enough to believe it but those who are investigative should know better.
We've gathered the six most common myths about omega-3 in order to offer our readers a better understanding of the product itself and its uses.
Myth #1: Fish is the only good source of omega-3
Fish may be a good source of omega-3 but it isn't the sole source. Calamari and krill are two of the most famous rivals followed by plant sourced omega-3 from chia, flaxseed and quinoa. In fact, these are all excellent omega-3 sources for nutritional needs.
For example, krill oil contains a higher amount of DHA than fish oil, while calamari contains the highest DHA out of the three. DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is very valuable for the brain. It keeps the brain healthy and helps reduce the chance of dementia during old age. DHA is also needed among young children since it is vital for brain development.
Studies show that calamari, krill and fish oil may help reduce the likelihood of certain ailments or help curtail the after-effects. These conditions include CVD, diabetes, cancer, dementia and stroke among others.
Truth: Omega-3 can come from many sources; some contain even better DHA levels than fish oil.
Myth #2: All omega-3 fatty acids are equal
Not all omega-3 fatty acids are equal. The most well-known fatty acids include DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Both have their own functions. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) on the other hand, is a fatty acid found in plants.
While the first two can be easily absorbed by the body, ALA needs to be converted first before our system can utilise it. Throughout the process, some of the ALA nutrients are lost. So although we might consume plant-based foods containing ALA, it isn't likely to provide the amount of omega-3 required for the body. However, plant-based omega-3 is often the go-to option for vegetarians or vegans.
Myth #3: It causes prostate cancer
A study conducted in 2013 concluded the intake of omega-3 supplements may increase the risk of prostate cancer among men. The study examined the effects of selenium and vitamin E on prostate cancer wherein blood levels of omega-3 were collected from the sample. They compared 893 men with prostate cancer to 1393 men who did not have prostate cancer. They concluded that higher levels of omega-3 were found in the blood of men with prostate cancer.
Although the study was carefully done, several medical experts debunked the claims made by researchers, stating they were without proper footing. Of course, the study created some panic among omega-3 consumers. Contenders dismissed the study because of the use of the word "association" rather than "causation". Perhaps more importantly, the study didn't even measure the consumption of fish oil, fish or other sources of omega-3.
A new study continued to dispute the original report, assuring men that taking omega-3 was safe and there should be no fear of cancer. The new study stated there existed no mechanisms in omega-3 fatty acids that would increase the risk of prostate cancer. On the contrary, the study found omega-3 could inhibit the growth of cancer cells in that area. Read the full study here: Meta-Analysis of Long-Chain Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (LCω-3PUFA) and Prostate Cancer.
Truth: The study claim is unsubstantiated while a number of other studies point to the opposite conclusion.
Myth #4: Imitation calamari comes from pig rectum
This seems to be one of the most famous among the omega-3 myths, followed by prostate cancer. This myth stirred the Internet world, however, the author of the myth later announced there was no proof to his own claims. So why start the rumour in the first place?
Investigations were conducted to be sure, and some concerned citizens were asked to report to the USDA if they found a case of product mislabelling. Omega-3 users and calamari eaters have basically forgotten all about this, along with other urban food legends like mystery hotdog meat.
Truth: There's no proof that restaurants were ever passing pig rectum as calamari rings.
Myth #5: Liquid omega-3 is better than softgels
There are different ways to take in omega-3 as a supplement. But there is this myth that liquid omega-3 may be better compared to softgels. But this isn't the case at all! The potency of omega-3 supplements may vary depending on the manufacturer and the refiner. So, brand certainly matters. However, it doesn't have much to do with forms.
Truth: Omega-3 supplements in liquid form and softgel form can be high in quality. Softgels may maintain freshness better, but it all depends on the manufacturer.
Myth #6: Omega-3 increases level of blood loss
Although omega-3 can thin blood, studies of those who have undergone heart surgery or who are pregnant and have 1-4 grams of DHA and EPA per day did not have an increased risk of significant bleeding. This is still the case even if patients are taking antiplatelet or antithrombotic medications.
Although this myth seems to have been debunked, it is still advised that you consult a physician before using omega-3 in any form.
Truth: Omega-3 supplements with EPA and DHA of up to 4 grams a day is entirely safe.
Most superfoods are subject to misconceptions since they are always in the limelight. To discern the truth from the myth, make sure you do your research or ask your doctor about it. Omega-3 can certainly help the body - no myths involved!