Dr. Joseph Mercola has a lot of strange ideas (like his comparison of chicken nuggets to Silly Putty), but the Internet’s most famous osteopath couldn’t be more self-servingly wrong in his blog post about fish oil this week.
On FoodConsumer.org, he writes:
There are times when supplements can be quite useful, and I believe that some supplements, such as a high quality animal-based omega-3 supplement, for example, are essential for nearly everyone. This is because the main source of animal based omega-3 fats in your diet comes from fish – most of which is now so grossly polluted with heavy metals, PCBs and other environmental toxins I can no longer recommend eating fish for optimal omega 3 levels. Another supplement that many people need is vitamin D3, unless you can get sufficient amounts of safe sun exposure year-round, or use a safe tanning bed.
We couldn’t agree more that omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D3 are essential parts of the human diet, and many Americans are lacking in both. But to advocate taking expensive fish-oil supplements over getting these nutrients from a diet rich in oily fish – which is an excellent source of both – is both elitist and incorrect.
For starters, mercury scaremongering in the early part of the 2000s caused approximately 4.4 million U.S. households earning $30,000 or less to completely eliminate their consumption of canned tuna. And it’s no coincidence that during those years, the nearly 260,000 children born to those families were 29 percent more likely to have abnormally low IQs. That’s because inexpensive canned tuna was the only source of omega-3 fatty acids their mothers could afford to buy.
Overblown warnings of mercury in fish have had a direct and lasting effect on these children’s development, and all over a hypothetical health risk. Mercola is doing no one any favors by continuing the mercury charade.
Most unforgivable of all? His advice seems calculated to lead his audience directly to the line of fish-oil supplements bearing his name. That is shameful behavior for a doctor. It’s also worth noting, separately, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously warned Mercola to stop making illegal claims for products sold through his site. And that’s not the only time he’s been in trouble with the FDA, either.
There are plenty of ways that concerned consumers can ensure they are getting enough omega-3s and vitamin D3 through seafood without putting themselves at risk for mercury poisoning. Our website HowMuchFish.com is an excellent place to start.