Fish oil may not be as healthy as you think, new study suggests


Fish oil has often been touted as an important part of a healthy diet, regularly praised for its numerous benefits. However, new research suggests that consistent fish oil consumption could lead to serious liver problems.

>> Read more trending news

The study, conducted by a group of international scientists and recently published in “The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry” found that long-term intake of sunflower or fish oils damages the liver, potentially causing alterations, which give rise to liver disease. Referred to as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, the form of liver disease is serious and unrelated to alcohol consumption, worsening as an individual ages.

"(Our research) demonstrates that fat accumulates in the liver with age, but the most striking finding is that the type of fat accumulated differs depending on the oils consumed and this means that, regardless of this accumulation, some livers age in a healthier way than others and with a greater or lesser predisposition to certain diseases," Dr. José Luis Quiles Morales, who co-authored the study and works as a professor of physiology at the University of Granada in Spain, told Science Daily.

>> Related: Do calcium and vitamin D supplements actually protect your bones?

Scientists behind the study examined how the long-term consumption of different dietary fat sources such as olive, sunflower and fish oils affects the liver of rats. As part of the comprehensive study, the researchers carried out a complete analysis of the liver genome, aiming to establish how it evolved in line with a rat's consumption of different oils.

They looked at three types of oil: virgin olive oil, sunflower oil and fish oils. According to their findings, virgin olive oil proved to be the best at preserving the liver.

>> Related: Coconut oil isn’t actually good for you, the American Heart Association says/news/health-med-fit-science

Fish oil, on the other hand, increased oxidation of the liver associated with aging, reduced mitochondrial electron transport chain activity and changed the relative length of telomeres (chromosomes whose length can affect aging in cells and cause cancer). 

Sunflower oil was also demonstrated to cause negative effects.

>> On AJC.com: 3 easy, healthy ways to season your meals 

"The alterations caused by the long-term consumption of sunflower and fish oils make the liver susceptible to NASH," Morales told The Daily Mail. He also warned that NASH is a "very serious disease that may act as a catalyst for other liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer."

Although many nutritionists have classified fish oil as a super food and it has been previously linked to health benefits, this isn't the first time scientists have suggested it may not be so great.

Previous research has suggested taking fish oil supplements can lower the risk of death from heart disease, while others have found no benefit. A recently published review of data from 10 studies involving a total of nearly 78,000 people, revealed that patients regularly taking fish oil supplements were just as likely to experience a stroke or heart attack within a four year period of time as those who did not, according to Live Science.

>> Related: 9 healthy-sounding foods that have more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut

Dr. Howard LeWine, chief medical editor at Harvard Health Publishing, wrote in a 2013 blog post that he believes the evidence for fish oils' benefits and risks will be a topic of debate for the foreseeable future.

"Experts will surely remain divided on their opinions about fish oil supplements for the general population. And don't expect any clarity about what to do any time soon. I expect other studies with flip-flopping results in the future," he wrote.

>> On AJC.com: The questions you were too afraid to ask about healthy eating

For now, Morales suggests those concerned for their liver stick to consuming virgin olive oil instead of the other alternatives.

"Virgin olive oil is the healthiest option," the researcher said, explaining that it "has already been proven in relation to diverse aspects of health."


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation World

Delta warns of flight cancellations due to subtropical storm Alberto
Delta warns of flight cancellations due to subtropical storm Alberto

Delta Air Lines is warning that it expects it will have to cancel flights due to subtropical storm Alberto. The storm is expected to make landfall just west of Panama City on Monday afternoon with heavy rain and strong wind affecting areas in Alberto’s path, according to Delta. Atlanta-based Delta said it expects delays and cancellations...
15-year-old girl missing since Tuesday in Mississippi, parents want answers
15-year-old girl missing since Tuesday in Mississippi, parents want answers

A Mississippi family is desperate for answers after one of their own, 15-year-old Eileen Betlinski-Brown, went missing Tuesday in Horn Lake, Mississippi. “It’s just way, way, way too real. I guess you call it stressful to say the least. Scary. Not knowing what’s happening,” said Eileen’s grandfather, James Betlinski. Betlinski...
Man, 79, pleads no contest to raping girl, 5, sentenced to 90 days house arrest
Man, 79, pleads no contest to raping girl, 5, sentenced to 90 days house arrest

A California businessman pleaded no contest to statutory rape of a 5-year-old girl Wednesday, and, as part of a negotiated deal with the San Joaquin County Superior Court, was sentenced to 90 days house arrest and will not have to register as a sex offender. Lyle Burgess, 79, of Stockton, sexually assaulted the girl, who is now 7, after her family...
Germany’s largest amusement park reopens after massive fire 
Germany’s largest amusement park reopens after massive fire 

There were no injuries among the thousands of people who evacuated from Germany’s largest amusement park after a fire ignited Saturday, destroying the Pirates of Batavia ride.  About 250 firefighters battled the blaze at Europa-Park into Sunday morning after the fire started in a warehouse, according to Sky News. Some firefighters...
Maryland rain-soaked, flash floods wash out Ellicott City
Maryland rain-soaked, flash floods wash out Ellicott City

Heavy rains soaking much of Maryland have led to flash flooding in parts of the state. Main Street in Ellicott City, which is just outside of Baltimore, was filled with rushing brown floodwater Sunday afternoon.  A flash flood emergency was issued for Howard County at 4:40 p.m. The city was still recovering from a devastating 2016 flood that left...
More Stories