Episode 173

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Bad fish doesn’t exactly have a good reputation to begin with.

When it comes to food poisoning, eating fish past its prime is almost legendary in its power to make people sick.  But seafood is rightly considered “brain food” — and fresh, uncontaminated fish and seafood products are among the better things people can have in their diet.  Even vegetarians often make seafood the one nutritional region where personal health gets to trump their cross-species ethics.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which seafood provides in abundant amounts, are a topic we’ve covered many times previously — and it’s been recommended by past guests that as much as 5 grams of supplemental fish oil per day might be advisable, if you’re not getting much seafood in your regular diet.

Not so fast, says Chris Kresser

While Omega-3 fatty acids live up to their reputation for brain and body health if taken in a natural, unadulterated form…that can be a big “if,” according Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac. (also the host of Revolution Health Radio).  And sometimes the supplemental alternatives to getting these food in our diets can end up doing more harm than good — being pro-oxidative and pro-inflammatory when our goals in eating them is often just the opposite.

Studies like this one show that many over-the-counter Omega-3 supplements contain partially-oxidized lipids in amounts great enough to make them not only a waste of money, but counterproductive in improving your health.  What is a person to do?

According to Kresser, in both this interview and the recently-updated, thoroughly referenced post about fish oils on his website, the surest-fire way of ensuring that you’re getting the Omega-3’s your nervous system needs without taking in unintended, pre-oxidized chemicals is comparatively simple: Skip the supplements, go with honest-to-goodness, natural seafood.

For most people, two meals per week containing a helping of fatty, cold-water fish is just what the neurologist ordered.  Kresser is also a big proponent of shellfish.  But rather than re-hashing the dietary recommendations here — which includes interesting advice about the “smoke point” of various cooking oils — give the episode a listen. 

This episode is a slightly shorter one, but chunks of this interview branched into other topics — Kresser has a wide range of expertise — and we’ve saved some bits for future episodes, so add a mental “to be continued…” bookmark as you listen.

Episode Highlights

0:22The controversial side of Omega-3 fatty acids
1:32This Week in Neuroscience: A biocompatible, transparent therapeutic window to the brain
4:52The audience interaction section
6:43Considerations when taking Omega-3s
7:22Introduction to Chris Kresser
7:56Episode 166: Omega-6 Fatty Acids with Dr. Chris Masterjohn and Episode 51: The Aquatic Origins Of Your Brain
8:22Enthusiasm for Omega-3s and dangers of relying on supplementation
10:20What is the worst outcome that could come from supplementing with fish oil?
13:33Viable alternatives for vegans and vegetarians
14:40Some of the most important foods for brain health
16:04Dr. Michael Crawford’s aquatic ape theory
18:51The effect of omega-6 intake on omega-3 conversion
19:49Rules of thumb for balancing the omega fatty acid ratio (eat real food!)
23:36What kind of cooking oil is best to use?
27:53Important takeaways
28:46 Clinician Training Program at the Kresser Institute
29:10Ruthless Listener-Retention Gimmick: Walking Affects Mood, Even When Not Expected To
Written by Jesse Lawler
Jesse Lawler is a technologist, health nut, entrepreneur, and "one whose power switch defaults to On."  He created Smart Drug Smarts to learn how to make his brain do even more, and is greatly pleased to now see his little baby Frankenstein toddling around and helping others.  Jesse tweets about personal optimization, tech, and other stuff he finds interesting at @Lawlerpalooza.
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