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Yet another headline today on a new study discounting the benefits of raising “good cholesterol”.  Yet everyone in America and every ad you see is telling you to raise it.

Raising good cholesterol, a goal pursued by Merck & Co. and Eli Lilly & Co. as the next milestone in cardiac care, may not cut heart attack risk, says a study that challenges the development of drugs that may generate billions of dollars in sales.

The report, in the U.K. medical journal The Lancet, found that people with a genetic condition that causes high HDL have the same heart-attack risk as the general population. The study is based on a computer analysis of 20 studies involving 20,913 heart attack cases and 95,047 control subjects.

Generally the recommendation is to take fish oil to raise good HDL.

Fish Oils have received an enormous amount of attention in recent years as a cure-all for a number of chronic diseases; including heart disease, cancer, depression all the way to dementia. As with any supplement that is heavily marketed and associated with large corporations the benefits of taking a fish oil supplement have to be examined.

Fish do not actually produce omega-3 fatty acids, but instead accumulate them by consuming either algae or other fish that have accumulated them. Therefore, large fish like sharks, tuna, salmon may be high in omega-3 fatty acids, but they can also be full of toxic contaminants as well; mercury, dioxin and PCB’s. In March 2010 a lawsuit filed by a California environmental group claimed that eight brands of fish oil supplements contained excessive levels of PCB’s, including CVS, Nature made, Rite Aid, GNC, Twinlab and Solgar. The majority of these products were either cod liver or shark liver oils.

The Fish Industry, just like poultry & meat; believe in utilizing every morsel of the fish to maximize profit. The better cuts are sold to human consumers and generally the quality trickles down to animal feed or fertilizer.

At some point, fish oil, received its spike in attention and the Fish Industry recognized a very lucrative market for human consumption. More than 50% of the world’s fish oil is used as feed to farm raised fish, now there is a large human demand.

Dr. Esselstyn states that: “Fish oil is not essential. Fish get their omega 3 from plants. It is difficult to be deficient in Omega 3 if eating 1-2 tablespoons of flax-seed meal and green leafy vegetables at several meals.”

I was prescribed synthetic fish oil after heart bypass surgery to increase my HDL. (Side note: He also prescribed a statin that reduces not only LDL but HDL… what a struggle.) The majority of fish oil in the U.S. in consumed with the intent to raise “good” cholesterol. People eat salmon for the heart healthy benefits but do not realize that 70% of the salmon’s fat has nothing to do with Omega-3 fatty acids; and ultimately they are ingesting a large amount of unnecessary fat.

A Plant Based diet provides all the nutrients necessary to maintain health without over the counter supplements. The medical industry, wants to raise your HDL at all cost and fish oil will do that in a short amount of time. However, if you are following a plant-based diet your LDL will naturally decrease as well as your HDL.

Dr. Dean Ornish, recently equated HDL to a garbage truck. Simply, HDL task is to carry away the garbage, LDL. If you have less garbage you don’t need as many trucks. (Cholesterol: The Good, the Bad & the Truth) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-dean-ornish/cholesterol-the-good-the-_b_870655.html

Dr. Esselstyn also made similar remarks in regards to HDL: “It is not uncommon for HDL to fall when cholesterol falls. Do not be alarmed.” (www.heartattackproof.com)

Supplements are not a substitute for good nutrition. In regards to fish oil; a couple of tablespoons of flax-seed, a green leafy salad, and a handful of chia seeds should do the trick. No issues: no PCB’s, no environmental stress on the world’s fisheries, no mercury and no added expense.