Was Humanity's Rise to Prominence Fueled by Fish Oils? - 9:
Alcoholism and Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

    "Yes, alcoholism is a disease. In fact, it's a disorder that has a strong genetic component. The way alcoholism and some other chemical addictions develop is that depression results from not using the drug, and so continued self-medication with the abused drug is required in order just to feel normal. Like violent behavior, drug abuse often results in a surge of dopamine (in the case of cocaine) or serotonin (in the case of Ecstasy), or both. However, alcoholism is different. Alcohol is a routinely accepted drug, and new research touts moderate use of alcohol to prevent heart disease. Yet the twenty million alcoholics in this country know that they are just one drink away from social oblivion, no matter what the cardiovascular benefits may be.
    "Alcoholics often have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood than nonalcoholics. This is because alcohol depletes DHA (DocosaHexaenoic Acid) in the brain and results in lower DHA in the blood. That is why drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, leading to irreversible neurological damage because of depletion of DHA in the fetal brain. Animal studies, however, show that increased consumption of fish oil can completely prevent the alcohol-induced depletion of DHA in the fetal brain."
          -- from The Omega Rx Zone: The Miracle of the New High Dose Fish Oil
                      by Barry Sears, Ph. D.
                      Reganbooks, Imprint of HarcourtCollins
                      2002, pg. 128

      I have attempted to validate those of Dr. Sears' claims that relate to safety of use.
    The FDA has designated a daily dose of up to 3 grams of fish oil as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).
    The American Heart Association (AHA) has endorsed the consumption of 2 to 4 grams of fish oil a day for individuals with high triglyceride levels (See the reprinted page from the AHA website at http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3006624)
    Barry Sears recommends pharmaceutical grade fish oil that has been molecularly distilled to reduce contaminants such as PCB's, dioxin, and heavy metals to the parts-per-billion level. Nicholas Perricone, M. D., in his book, The Perricone Prescription, recommends eating canned, wild, red Alaskan sockeye salmon that graze on marine algae, zooplankton, and krill (pg. 60). (Dr. Perricone is an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale University School of Medicine.)
    Sixty percent of the weight of the brain is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). (Assuming an adult brain weight of 1,350 grams, this amounts to about 810 grams of docosahexaenoic acid, not including the DHA in the spinal cord, the eyes, and the other compnents of the nervous system.) DHA and EPA are found in breast milk and in European infant formulas, but unfortunately, as of 2001, not in U.S.-manufactured infant formula.
    A developing fetus will drain its mother's body of omega-3 fatty acids, but most U. S. citizens get an estimated one-tenth of the omega-3 fatty acids that are considered optimum for good health. This is particularly crucial for

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December 16, 2003 December 9, 2003

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AHA Statement

New guidelines focus on fish, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids



DALLAS, Nov. 18 – Healthy people should eat omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plant sources to protect their hearts, according to updated American Heart Association recommendations published in today’s Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Omega-3 fatty acids are not just good fats; they affect heart health in positive ways,” says Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., lead author of the report.  They make the blood less likely to form clots that cause heart attack and protect against irregular heartbeats that cause sudden cardiac death.

The comprehensive report examines the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in the context of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk reduction and considers the recent Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance about the presence of contaminants in certain species of fish.

Since 2000, the American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines have recommended that healthy adults eat at least two servings of fish per week, particularly fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon.  These fish contain two omega-3 fatty acids –   eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (EPA and DHA).  A third kind, alpha-linolenic acid, is less potent. It comes from soybeans, canola, walnut and flaxseed and oils made from those beans, nuts and seeds.

People who have elevated triglycerides may need 2 to 4 grams of EPA and DHA per day provided as a supplement.  Even the 1gram/day dose recommended for patients with existing CVD may be more than can readily be achieved through diet alone.  These people should consult their physician to discuss taking supplements to reduce heart disease risk.  Patients taking more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from supplements should do so only under a physician’s care.  The FDA has noted that high intakes could cause excessive bleeding in some people.

Depending on their stage of life, consumers need to be aware of both the benefits and risks of eating fish.  Children and pregnant and nursing women may be at increased risk of exposure to excessive mercury from fish but also are generally at low risk for CVD.  Thus, avoiding potentially contaminated fish is a higher priority for these groups, says Kris-Etherton.

For middle-aged and older men, and postmenopausal women, the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risks within the established guidelines.

“This is hopeful news as we have found that the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on heart disease risk is seen in relatively short periods of time,” Kris-Etherton says. “The research shows that all omega-3 fats have cardioprotective benefits, especially those in fish.”

Although the mechanisms responsible for omega-3 fatty acids’ reduction of CVD risk are still being studied, research has shown:

  • Decreased risk of sudden death and arrhythmia.
  • Decreased thrombosis (blood clot).
  • Decreased triglyceride levels.
  • Decreased growth of atherosclerotic plaque.
  • Improved arterial health.
  • Lower blood pressure.

Co-authors are William S. Harris, Ph.D., and Lawrence J. Appel, M.D., M.P.H.

NR02-1213 (Circ/Kris-Etherton)





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    ---Taken from the American Heart Association website at:.

Levels of mercury in different kinds of fish:
    The table below is taken from a set of tables listed on the AHA website at:

Top 10 fish and shellfish consumed in the United States

  Mercury level in
parts per million (ppm)
Omega-3 fatty acids
(grams per 3-oz. serving)
Canned tuna 0.17 0.26-0.73
Shrimp ND 0.27
Pollack 0.20 0.46
Salmon ND 0.68-1.83
Cod 0.19 0.13-0.24
Catfish 0.07 0.15-0.20
Clams ND 0.24
Flounder or sole    0.04 0.43
Crabs 0.09-0.18 0.34-0.40
Scallops 0.05 0.17


    A similar but more detailed table (shown below) may be found at the FDA website:
while its contents are reprinted below:

U. S. Food and Drug Administration
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Office of Seafood
May 2001

Mercury Levels in Seafood Species

The following tables provide the mean and range of mercury levels in a variety of fish and shellfish

Table 1
Fish With Highest Mercury Levels
Tilefish 1.45 0.65-3.73 60
*Swordfish 1.00 0.10-3.22 598
King Mackerel 0.73 0.30-1.67 213
*Shark 0.96 0.05-4.54 324

Table 2
Fish and Shellfish With Much Lower Mercury Levels
Grouper (Mycteroperca) 0.43 0.05-1.35 64
Tuna (fresh or frozen) 0.32 ND-1.30 191
*Lobster Northern (American) 0.31 0.05-1.31 88
Grouper (Epinephelus) 0.27 0.19-0.33 48
*Halibut 0.23 0.02-0.63 29
*Sablefish 0.22 ND-0.70 102
*Pollock 0.20 ND-0.78 107
*Tuna (canned) 0.17 ND-0.75 248
*Crab Blue 0.17 0.02-0.50 94
*Crab Dungeness 0.18 0.02-0.48 50
*Crab Tanner 0.15 ND-0.38 55
*Crab King 0.09 0.02-0.24 29
*Scallop 0.05 ND-0.22 66
*Catfish 0.07 ND-0.31 22
*Salmon (fresh, frozen or canned) ND ND-0.18 52
*Oysters ND ND-0.25 33
*Shrimps ND ND 22

Table 3
Fish With Methylmercury Levels Based on Limited Sampling

Data presented in Table 3 are based on limited sample sizes and therefore have a much greater degree of uncertainty
*Red Snapper 0.60 0.07-1.46 10
Marlin 0.47 0.25-0.92 13
Moonfish 0.60 0.60 1
Orange Roughy 0.58 0.42-0.76 9
Bass Saltwater 0.49 0.10-0.91 9
Trout Freshwater 0.42 1.22 (max) NA
Bluefish 0.30 0.20-0.40 2
Croaker 0.28 0.18-0.41 15
Trout Seawater 0.27 ND-1.19 4
*Cod (Atlantic) 0.19 ND-0.33 11
Mahi Mahi 0.19 0.12-0.25 15
*Ocean Perch 0.18 ND-0.31 10
Haddock (Atlantic) 0.17 0.07-0.37 10
Whitefish 0.16 ND-0.31 2
Herring 0.15 0.016-0.28 8
*Spiny Lobster 0.13 ND-0.27 8
Perch Freshwater 0.11 0.10-0.31 4
Perch Saltwater 0.10 0.10-0.15 6
Flounder/Sole 0.04 ND-0.18 17
*Clams ND ND 6
Tilapia ND ND 8
*Fish and shellfish among the most consumed of the domestic seafood market

Sources of methylmercury data:

FDA database FY 85-99
EPA Mercury Study Report to Congress, 1997
A Survey of the Occurrence of Mercury in the Fishery Resources of the Gulf of Mexico Report (2000)
NMFS 1976, 1978 Report

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