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Salmon Beats Fish Oil for Blood Benefits
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Clinical trials find salmon superior to fish oil for improving dieters’ blood fat profiles

by Craig Weatherby

Last year, we reported surprising clinical results showing that people absorbed omega-3s better from whole salmon than from standard fish oil supplements.

For more on that, see “Salmon Beats Fish Oil for Absorption of Omega-3s” (This finding may or may not apply to our whole, unrefined Sockeye Salmon Oil, whose fat profile closely matches that of wild salmon).

Now, an international research team reports that –  compared with people who took standard fish oil supplements – overweight people who ate salmon gained healthier blood fat profiles.

These findings fit the increasingly credible hypothesis that whole foods are generally superior to supplements. (See “Whole Foods Seen Superior to Supplements”.)

Here are the details.

Salmon worked better than fish oil for improving blood fats

Researchers from Spain, Iceland, and Ireland recruited 35 overweight or obese volunteers (Marqués M et al. 2008).

The volunteers’ average age was 33, and their average body mass index was 30.5 kilograms per square meter (kg/m2). By contrast, healthy BMIs range from 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2.

The participants were placed on a specific lower-calorie, balanced diet for eight weeks, and were divided into three subgroups:

  • Omega-3 fish oil supplements

  • Salmon – consume 150 grams (5.4 ounces) at 3 meals per week

  • Placebo capsules

Their physical and blood fat profiles were measured at the outset and again at the end of the eight weeks.

All of the participants experienced drops in total cholesterol levels.

But the people who ate salmon had better results on two fronts:

  • The drop in cholesterol was greater in the salmon group.

  • Levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels were unchanged in the salmon group, but they decreased in the placebo and fish oil groups.

The researchers concluded that, when eaten as part of a balanced low-calorie diet, eating whole salmon produced healthier effects on blood fat profiles than fish oil did, for unknown reasons.


  • Krebs JD, Browning LM, McLean NK, Rothwell JL, Mishra GD, Moore CS, Jebb SA. Additive benefits of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and weight-loss in the management of cardiovascular disease risk in overweight hyperinsulinaemic women. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Oct;30(10):1535-44. Epub 2006 Mar 21.
  • Marqués M, Parra D, Kiely M, Bandarra N, Thorsdottir I, Martínez JA. [Omega-3 fatty acids inclusion as part of an energy restricted diet to improve the effect on blood lipids] Med Clin (Barc). 2008 Jan 19;130(1):10-2. Spanish.
  • Parra D, Bandarra NM, Kiely M, Thorsdottir I, Martínez JA. Impact of fish intake on oxidative stress when included into a moderate energy-restricted program to treat obesity. Eur J Nutr. 2007 Dec;46(8):460-7. Epub 2007 Nov 17.
  • Parra D, Ramel A, Bandarra N, Kiely M, Martínez JA, Thorsdottir I. A diet rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids modulates satiety in overweight and obese volunteers during weight loss. Appetite. 2008 Nov;51(3):676-80. Epub 2008 Jun 14.doi:10.1016/j.appet.2008.06.003
  • Ramel A, Martinéz A, Kiely M, Morais G, Bandarra NM, Thorsdottir I. Beneficial effects of long-chain n-3 fatty acids included in an energy-restricted diet on insulin resistance in overweight and obese European young adults. Diabetologia. 2008 Jul;51(7):1261-8. Epub 2008 May 20.
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