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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


The University of Maryland Medical Centre (UMDC) in their Complimentary Medicine Medical Reference reported the following:

“People who follow a Mediterranean diet tend to have an increased HDL, or "good" cholesterol level. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fish and healthy fats, such as olive oil, and has a healthy balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Whole grains, root and green vegetables, daily portions of fruit, fish and poultry, olive and canola oils, and ALA (from flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and walnuts) are also part of the Mediterranean diet. Red meat and saturated fats are not part of the diet.”

That sounds really good!

UMDC went on to add:

“Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts or legumes, and ALA rich foods may substantially reduce the recurrence of heart disease. One of the best ways to help prevent and treat heart disease is to eat a diet that is low in saturated and trans fat and rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed and fish). Evidence suggests that people who eat an ALA rich diet are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack. ALA may reduce heart disease risks through a variety of ways, including making platelets less sticky, reducing inflammation, promoting blood vessel health, and reducing risk of arrhythmia (irregular heart beat).

Several human studies also suggest that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids (including ALA) may lower blood pressure.”

The big issue now is: in view of the latest scientific research about Omega-3, have these findings been falsified? And if so, should we therefore throw away our Omega-3 capsules which cost us so much money? The answer is NO! At least, not yet! While they may not have the published medicinal or nutritional values we always believed they did, they may have an immense psychological impact on our well-being.

in any case, a scientific theory is only a model which explains scientific phenomena. It is not perfect and it may not even be true! Indeed the scientist never claims that his theory is true. But what distinguishes scientific theory from other theories is the fact that the latter is falsifiable; that is, it is testable!

The previous theory that fish oils contributed to heart health has apparently been challenged and potentially falsified, but are the results conclusive?

According to a philosopher of science (Karl Popper), science proceeds through conjectures and refutations. In that context, the claim that fish oils contribute to heart health may be considered a conjecture; and the counter-claim that it does not might be considered only a refutation. The big question is: what happens next in this cycle of conjecture and refutation?

For purpose of context, let me state here that Einstein relativity theory was falsified in the very year it was proposed but it has gone on to stand the test of time. In fact, its falsification was considered to be only a “counter-instance”, “an anomaly” which the theory digested in due course.

Will the counter-claims against fish oils suffer the same fate? it's a matter of time!

Admittedly, there seems to be a perceived element of alternative medicine involved in the promotion of 'the fish oils theory', and that may well be the reason why UMDC has categorized it under “complimentary medicine”; however, in the end, it all boils down to “testability”. If the alternative conceptions under “complimentary medicine” are testable, then they will be welcomed by the scientific community. Let’s wait and see what happens next. Will the refutation of the counter-claims happen? And will the prevailing theory stand, just as the relativity did?

At the moment, there seems to be some debate going on; but I believe fish oils will continue to be on our dietary menu simply because of the general feelings of well-being it induces as well as the powerful sales strategy by manufacturers. But does Omega-3 fatty acids, usually from fish oil, really reduce inflammation and help prevent certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease and arthritis? Many people believe they do! And belief is a critical component of psychology! Moreover, is diet the only or major factor that contributes to the prevention of certain chronic diseases or are there other equally or more powerful “unseen’” factors in the equation?

Let’s wait and see what comes up next!

1 comment:

  1. Diana Theodore wrote:

    Personally I have never thought that capsules of a " magic " ingredient were as efficacious as when eaten actually in the foodstuff where it is found. Here in st Lucia we have the perfect diet already, fish ,fruit and vegetables and of course coconut oil. The cold pressed Virgin Coconut oil is thought to be especially good , if not better than olive oil for joints and the heart, I have seen it recommended that a half teaspoonful should be taken daily ( in spite of what the scientists commissioned by the soya bean producers would have us believe ).

    When considering the Mediterranean diet it is also worth mentioning that a glass of red wine is usual with meals and that a siesta is often taken between 12 and 3 to avoid the heat of the day not the more usual lunch hour.