#83 - Bill Harris, Ph.D.: Omega-3 fatty acids


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By Peter Attia, MD, Peter Attia, and MD. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In this episode, Bill Harris, Ph.D. in human nutrition and expert on omega-3 fatty acids, sets the table by clearly defining the families of fatty acids (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated) before diving into the current landscape of polyunsaturated fat (omega-6 and omega-3) with a particular focus on EPA and DHA (the two main elements of fish oil supplements). Bill gives a historical overview, updates us on the latest science related to the health benefits, and provides plenty of insights as to how we should think about increasing our EPA and DHA intake.

We discuss:

  • Bill’s long history of studying fatty acids [6:30];
  • Defining the fatty acids—SFA, MUFA, PUFA, omega-3, omega-6, and more [9:45];
  • What is the significance of fatty acids? Why should we care? [19:45];
  • History of fat phobia, saturated fat, and does PUFA reduce cholesterol? [23:45];
  • Breaking down the conversion process of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids including how we get to EPA and DHA [28:00];
  • Takeaway from Bill’s 1980 study looking at how salmon oil affected cholesterol and triglyceride levels [36:15];
  • History of our understanding of omega-3 and its effect on LDL cholesterol [45:00];
  • Prescribed fish oil drugs vs. OTC supplements—Differences and recommended brands [52:00];
  • Health benefits of EPA [57:45];
  • Potential benefits of ALA and how it compares to taking EPA and DHA directly [1:12:45];
  • Health benefits of DHA [1:17:15];
  • Cell membrane omega-3 index—What is it, the role of genetics, how to increase it, and a recommended target [1:19:00];
  • Is EPA or DHA neuroprotective? Can it help with depression? [1:23:30];
  • Recommended fish to eat for EPA and DHA - Any mercury concerns? [1:25:45];
  • Can omega-3 mitigate risks associated with smoking? [1:29:15];
  • The problem with the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio [1:30:00];
  • The problem with labeling any kind of fatty acid as “bad” [1:36:00];
  • Why increasing EPA and DHA intake matters more than reducing omega-6 intake [1:38:00];
  • Important takeaway from the VITAL study [1:46:30];
  • Importance of testing your omega-3 index [1:53:00];
  • Exciting study coming out soon, and why you need to take your fish oil with food [1:57:15]; and
  • More.

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114 episodes