Fish Oil Supplements — What’s the Evidence? with Tim Radak, DrPH, MPH, RDN


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Episode Summary

Tim Radak, DrPH, MPH, RDN is Academic Coordinator for the Public Health PhD program at Walden University, where he has taught public health courses since 2010. His research in nutrition, chronic disease prevention, and public health has been published in several peer-reviewed scientific journals and textbook chapters.

In this episode, we delve into the history, science, and health impacts of fish oil supplements. Tim explains that the supplements’ popularity was promoted by a 1979 study of Greenland Eskimos, whose diets primarily consisted of seafood. Although the study found extremely low instances of heart disease within the population, the Eskimos’ cardiovascular health was likely under-reported due to a lack of access to diagnostic testing. As a result, the data was invalid but, nonetheless, led to a flurry of studies over the following decades on the association between omega-3 and nearly all chronic diseases.

Whether or not your body needs supplemental amounts involves many factors, Tim says. “Even though… fish oil, in terms of essential fatty acids (omega-3), has an anti-inflammatory effect, we have to weigh that against whether the body really wants extra amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to reform inflammation events.” For most healthy Americans, Tim says that sufficient levels of omega-3 can be obtained by eating a plant-based diet.

In fact, it is important to balance omega-3 intake with the intake of another fatty acid, omega-6. The metabolism of the compounds are in competition, and high levels of one can impact the uptake of the other. You can listen to this episode to learn why “A good thing is great, but too much of a good thing could actually be counterproductive.”

Here are the details of our conversation:

[00:01:26] Tim’s mentorship and research at Walden University

[00:02:27] Tim’s journey in lifestyle medicine

[00:04:05] Navigating health information

[00:05:20] History of omega-3 supplements

[00:12:46] Omega-3’s anti-inflammatory mechanisms

[00:15:13] Primary and secondary prevention

[00:15:59] Obtaining omega-3 through diet

[00:18:36] Balancing omega-3 and omega-6 intake

[00:20:36] Should certain diets take supplements?

[00:24:56] Reducing omega-6 intake in the Western diet

[00:26:35] Secondary prevention for heart disease

Episode Notes

Tim Radak, DrPH, MPH, RDN is Academic Coordinator for the Public Health PhD program at Walden University, where he has taught public health courses since 2010.  He previously served as Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Dietetic Internship Director at Appalachian State University, Senior Research Program Manager for the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, and Director of Nutrition for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.  He has been credentialed as a Registered Dietitian since 2000 and earned his doctorate in Public Health Nutrition at Loma Linda University.

Tim has authored or co-authored 15 articles and abstracts in peer-reviewed scientific journals, written several textbook chapters, and contributed to and participated in television, radio and newsprint media as an expert on various public health and nutrition topics.  His research interests include:  the relationship between plant-based diets and reduced risk of chronic diseases; epidemiology of chronic diseases; essential fatty acids requirements and metabolism; behavioral strategies for lifestyle modification;  body composition;  food insecurity;  and nutritional assessment methodologies.


Visit Tim’s website or learn more about his work at Walden University here.

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