Fish Oil

Fish Oil from Green Pasture'sAhhh…fish oil. A whole industry built around supplying us with something that should be a natural part of our food supply. Prior to the 1970’s meat and dairy in the United states was still grass fed so we received ample amounts of the main constituents of fish oil, EPA and DHA, as part of our normal diet. With the adoption of grain feeding our cattle and the use of seed and vegetable oils heavy in the short omega 6 fat (linoleic acid) we have witnessed a dramatic shift away from the essential fatty acid profile we’d expect to see from an ancestral diet of ~1-1 or 2-1 N-6/N-3 to more than 10-1. The health implications of this shift have not been great. The N-6 family tends to produce “pro-inflammatory” cellular signaling, while the N-3 family tends to produce “anti-inflammatory” signaling. This is a simplification but it get’s the idea across. More accurately, with excessive N-6 we see cellular signaling profiles that tend to promote pathology including cancer, autoimmunity and glucose dysregulation. I see this more like a band or orchestra playing out of tune than too much of one thing vs another thing, but the fact remains folks likely get too much of the short form of N-6 fats. My early solution (and the solution of many other people including Barry Sears, Charles Poliquin and number of other folks) was to front load the system with large amounts of N-3 fats in the form of fish oil to “balance” the intake of N-6 fats. I mentioned a formula in my book for figuring out your fish oil dose and my pals at Whole9 put up a nifty calculator to help you figure out not only how much fish oil you needed overall, but also how damn many capsules that meant depending upon your product of choice.

These recommendations were born several years ago when I was still working for CrossFit, trying to sneak in as much paleo-pseudoscience as I could between polishing the brass of the magical, 40-30-30 Zone.  Given the relatively low protein recommendation of the Zone, combined with moderate to low carbohydrate levels, the only thing left to recommend to hard charging athletes was to ramp up fat intake, and what better fat to use than nuts and seeds? Portable, cheap, yummy. Also, 36-DD heavy in linoleic acid. No worries I thought, we’ll just “balance” things out with more fish oil. Well, by looking at performance parameters and blood work it became clear we still had inflammatory issues that were far from optimum. Some digging in the literature and review of the basic metabolic pathways showed that linoleic acid intake tends to squash the anti-inflammatory outputs of our EPA/DHA supplementation. Recommendations were tweaked to get fat from sources low(er) in linoleic acid such as coconut and pastured butter and we observed improvements in performance and various blood parameters including C-reactive protein and fasting insulin levels.

Eventually the Zone was canned and folks were told to get protein and carb intake up to levels that matched activity. Things REALLY improved!

But I was still of the opinion that fairly high dose fish oil was beneficial to folks with significant systemic inflammation and health issues. The recommendation was to take a fairly large amount of fish oil for a few weeks, then titrate that down to a maintenance level. The thinking here was that we could send a large “anti-inflammatory” signal to the system and get the Titanic steering away from the proverbial iceberg. Some folks (smarter than myself like Chris Kresser) had different ideas on this. Chris liked limiting linoleic acid and keeping EPA/DHA to low-ish levels, mainly from food, with perhaps a few grams per day of supplemental fish oil. What I had not initially considered is signaling, be it anti or pro-inflammatory is a cell by cell affair, and this is based largely on the make-up of fatty acids in our cell membranes. In an inflamed, sick, standard American diet model, individuals have a significant overabundance of linoleic acid in their cell membranes. The idea of front loading more EPA/DHA to change the fatty acid profile of our cells is great until you run into the brick-wall of our metabolic machinery. Cell fatty acid turnover cannot be “goosed” from behind like shoving a bungee jumper off a bridge. Fatty acid turnover has a rate limiting step that is not “substrate limited.” Or, in non-geek-speak more fish oil will not make the process go faster. Instead we need to limit the intake of linoleic acid, keep a decent intake of EPA/DHA, but we need not, and in fact should not hammer that dosage, as we will see when we look at oxidative stress and free-radical chemistry.

When we talk about “inflammation” we must consider two basic elements:

1-The immune system (in this case mainly the innate, non-adaptive immune system made up of macrophages, leukocytes and neutrophils…we’ll largely ignore (for today) the adaptive immune response which is involved in autoimmunity)

2-The various cell-signaling components that tell the immune system what to do. Now, almost everyone has heard of oxidative damage, free radicals, antioxidants and the like. In chemistry we characterize reactions in a number of ways, with most synthetic reactions involving the shuffling of an electron pair between one atom or molecule and another atom or molecule. This is like a banjo-playing square-dance! Fun, safe, predictable. Another type of reaction that we must consider in biological systems, particularly the immune system, is free radical chemistry. In this situation we see a single electron running amuck. This is more akin to a mosh-pit at a punk concert. In the technical parlance free radicals can “fuck-shit-up.” The innate immune system makes good use of free radicals when battling bacteria, viruses and parasites. If an immune cell comes in contact with something deemed to be a foreign invader the cell will tend to engulf the item, then release a dose of free-radicals that likely will kill the cell, but will also (hopefully) take out the pathogenic interloper in a Kamikaze style mission. As you recall, inflammation involves not only the immune system but also the cellular signaling components such as prostaglandins, leukotriens and a host of other goodies. In the pro-inflamed state the signaling is effectively “high allert.” The immune cells are ramped up and just looking for a fight.  As such, there is a tendency for the immune cells to get a little spastic and attack things they should not. As a consequence, we are subjected to an elevated level of oxidative stress. This is to be expected when fighting a cold or bacteria, but it portends doom when it is an outgrowth of endotoxemia (intestinal permeability, bacterial overgrowth) and elevated systemic inflammation from a diet and lifestyle that is throwing too many of the wrong switches. Now, this is a pretty bad scenario as it is, but if we have large amounts of polyunsaturated fats (like those in fish oil, seed and similar oils) in our system things can go from bad to worse. Polyunsaturated fats are HIGHLY oxidizable. Linseed oil (refined FLAX oil actually…), if added to paper or rags and left open to the air, can get enough reaction going to combust. This is possible because polyunsaturated fats under go what is called a “chain propagative” reaction. Throw one teensy electron into a cell membrane full of polyunsaturated fats and you can witness a mountain of damage. This is why an individual with significant systemic inflammation would do well to limit polyunsaturated fats (particularly linoleic acid) as they are already experiencing oxidative stress. High levels of polyunsaturated fats in the cell membranes will not help things. This oxidative stress issue pops up in other, unlikely spots that can mask problems which otherwise are ascribed a therapeutic effect. Fish oil supplementation has been associated with decreased blood triglyceride levels. Folks savvy to the underpinning of insulin resistance know that elevated triglycerides are an indicator of insulin resistance, so any intervention that lowers triglycerides should be a good thing. Well…in the digestive process all nutrients must be broken down, passed through the gut lining and eventually make their way to the liver. Fats are released out of the liver in the form of LDL’s, VLDL’s and the like, but they are tested in the liver for oxidative stress potential. If the package is made up of oxidized lipids (lipid peroxides) the batch is scuttled and the liver attempts to degrade the contents of the sample to prevent damage to the rest of the body. The liver is willing to take this hit as it has a large capacity for regeneration, but as with alcoholic cirrhosis, it does take an ass-kicking.  While this chaos ensues in the comfy confines of the liver, our blood triglycerides go down, apparently a good thing, but this is a completely different mechanism of action relative to decreased triglycerides stemming from improved insulin/leptin sensitivity. This is a long-winded way of saying it’s time to revisit our fish-oil recommendations.

So, what should I do?

1-LIMIT linoleic acid!! You’d think after I jumped up and down about his for the past 1500 words that it would be obvious, but I just wanted to make sure we are clear on this. Nuts, seeds, corn, safflower, sunflower and similar seed oils are “no bueno.”

2-Limit linolenic acid form things like flax, hemp, chia etc. I’d prefer you get the bulk of your N-3’s in the ready made forms of EPA/DHA and your N-6’s as aracidonic acid.  The conversion of linolenic acid to EPA/DHA is inefficient and overall exposes up to a greater oxidative potential as you must consume MORE total polyunsaturated fats to get the goods. I know there are some folks that recommend these short chain fats. Do whatever you like but this is what makes sense to me.

3-Try to get the bulk of your EFA’s (both N-3 and N-6) from grass fed meat, and perhaps pastured dairy in the form of butter. BUT that’s expensive!! I know Buttercup, I know. Do your best. Sardines, mackerel and similar fish are also great sources.

4-Supplement with 2-4 grams of EPA/DHA heavy oils from fish oil, fermented cod liver oil (god help me…that stuff is NASTY, but Chris Kresser loves the stuff) or vegetarian sourced DHA from algae. The DHA can retro-convert to EPA, so no problems there. Which should it be, 2 or 4 grams? If you are “big” take 4. If you are little, take 2. If you do not know if you are big or little, please disavow all knowledge or the paleo diet and adopt veganism. Please.

At the end of the day I think these recommendation support our best understanding of the science and it seems to reflect clinical findings. It also simplifies things to a great degree. Many a client has balked at the high-dose fish oil that has been part of my and other folks recommendations. I think there are some great supplements for specific purposes (adaptogens, creatine and a few other goodies) but where food is concerned, food seems to be best. Shocker. Similarly, there are not shortcuts to health and wellness, just better information and feedback so we can make better decisions.




Categories: Anti inflammatory diet, Autoimmunity, CrossFit, Fitness, General, Paleo Athletes, Paleo Diet Basics, Paleo/Low Carb


Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

Have you heard about the Paleo diet and were curious about how to get started? Or maybe you’ve been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? Then Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation is for you.


  1. Adrian says

    That’s the beauty of never resting on your laurels and always searching for better answers. Being prepared to openly admit that you don’t always get it right first up brings much respect. Well done Robb.

    I was never comfortable popping all those fish oil tablets, so I just stopped and ate lots of grass fed meat and butter instead. Much tastier too :)

    Now I have about 300 capsules sitting there waiting for me to decide what to do with them. Could I slip them into the jelly beans bucket at the local doctors office and hope that kids don’t notice they look different?

    • tess says

      i want to “second” his first paragraph, particularly! i felt thoroughly betrayed when X didn’t announce changes in outlook, but instead quietly removed posts from his archives (no names named…).

  2. Tamara says

    Love my butter! And yeah I can’t stand cod live oil. Stick to natural sources and one can’t go wrong or too far off the mark anyways.

  3. says

    The first rule of fish oil club, don’t ingest linoleic acid! The second rule of fish oil club…

    And if this is your first night in fish oil club, you HAVE to drink a glass of fermented cod liver oil.

  4. Jake says

    Great summary Robb. Thanks.

    I do believe however that in paragraph 9 “your N-3’s int eh ready made” should read “your N-3’s in the ready made”

    Using “int eh” was confusing to me as I am a programmer and have also spend time near canada.

      • Sharon says

        Why assume anyone and everyone knows you and your pods? If you answer the Q as asked, if you want to answer, it will help a lot more people understand, vs drumming up the pods and listening for some tid bit. Slang is not an answer and shouldn’t be used in “professional” work, as well.

        • MyGodSharon says

          The podcasts have been transcribed…just look it up using the search function since it will only take approximately 2 to maybe 3 minutes.

          • jlocicero says

            The podcasts aren’t fully transcribed, are they? All I can find is the questions. Or is that what you mean?

            I thought the entire podcast, including the jokes, had been transcribed… THAT would be awesome!

          • Sharon says

            there’s a search function? It would have taken me longer to write that than to do it? Look how much attention I got! I feel much better with the attention than I do with the fishy oily stuffy

        • says

          Episode 51, 25:00 in. Took me about 2 minutes to search for and find this info Sharon. He’s probably “assuming” people know how to use the simple search function on the home page of this website and doesn’t have the time to re-answer every single question he’s been asked many times before. But I could be wrong…

          • Sharon says

            I’d rather you call me lazy than berate me on the time-it-took BS. Still, how do I search??? Can you tell me again?

        • Vicki says

          Yep – Episode 51 –
          Andy”Deas: Once”again,””Robb,”what”is”your”take”on”krill”oil”versus”regular”fish”oil?”
          Robb”Wolf: The”krill”oil”is” super”cool.”It’s”got” some” fat”associated”carotenoids.”They”
          are”really,”really”good.”Honestly,”I”haven’t”researched”a”ton”of”this, but”it”
          just” makes” me” nervous” harvesting” the” base” of” the” food” chain” in” the”
          ocean,”basically”getting”out”and”harvesting”the”krill”which the”krill”is”what”
          feeds”whales”and”fish”and”birds”and”all”this”SS basically,”it’s kind”of”like”the”
          higher”piece”of” the”phytoplankton”in” the”ocean.”And”it”just makes”me a”
          I” may” be” totally” offSbase” with” that.” I” need” to” do” a” little” more” research”
          with”it.”But”it”seems”to”be”good”stuff.”The”Eades”push it”and”like”it.”They”
          been”doing”some”palm”oil, like”red”palm”oil, for”exactly”that”purpose.”No,”
          I’m”not”getting”EPA”and”DHA”out”of” that,”but”I’m”getting” some”of” those”
          really”cool”fat”associated”carotenoids, and”I”really”like”that”stuff.”
          Andy”Deas: Yup.”Krill”oil”is”not magic”though,”folks.”Just”so”we’re”clear.”
          Robb”Wolf: No,”no,”it’s not”magic.”It”kind of”gets”pushed”a”little”bit”that”way”that”it”SS
          it”orders”a”magnitude”better”than”regular”fish”oil, and”it’s”definitely”not.”

  5. Billy MacDonald says

    Shit! I had 3 squares of 90% Dark Choc, 1.5 Handfull of mix raw nuts (brazil, mac, cashew, hazel, almonds etc) and a sip of fish oil and coffee for breaky. Am I going to die?

  6. says


    Any references on the statements about linoleic acid? Got in a “discussion” with my biochem teacher(specialty in dna synthesis) while he was teaching the chapter on fatty acids. He was touting the benefits of eating lots of linoleic acid and also mentioned that coconut oil should be avoided and it’s bad for you (I explained free-radicalization as compared to other oils but wasn’t he wasn’t buying it). I am pretty well educated on what really happens in the body, but rather than protest in front of the biochem building, I would rather just send him some information and let him make his own decisions. I just feel a little offended when professors overstep there bounds into areas they are not well versed and start preaching fact to a classroom of over 200 students (mostly pre-med). It’s this kind of non-sense that perpetuates the bad information that goes around the medical community.

    Huge fan of who you are, and what you represent!


  7. Dave says

    Nice Robb! I wonder what the EPA/DHA levels are of groups who consume (or have historically consumed) primarily fish as their protein source? Perhaps that would help to establish an upper limit to the optimum daily total of those N-3’s from all sources?

      • Dwayne says

        Inuit also had rampant osteoporosis, although the mechanism is not clear: it could be the low plant food intake or the retinol intake, but for that reason I don’t take CLO any more, just fish oil. Osteoporosis runs in my family, and at 35 years old and following a paleo diet for 10 years, I recently found out I have osteopenia. The only thing I can think of that could be the problem is the high retinol content I have consumed from CLO,butter,sardines,liver etc. So I have cut out the retinol rich foods. In northern populations, high retinol intake is significantly associated with fracture risk due to excessive osteoclast formation.

        I doubt that this is anything new to you, Robb, but I’m just throwing that out there for anyone consuming lots of CLO

          • Dwayne says

            Hey Robb,
            I do agree that retinol is not the ONLY issue, and that vitamin D is critical to ‘balancing’ vit A intake. I do think my retinol intake was a bit excessive, because in addition to all the butter, eggs, liver, etc.. I was consuming CLO.I still get a fair bit of retinol from eggs, butter etc.. However there is something to the nature of Northern prehistoric populations and osteporosis. Aiden Cockburn was a Paleopathologist who wrote an excellent book called Mummies, Disease, and Ancient Cultures. In it, he and his team document the osteoporosis found in the Inuit skeletons. The Inuit, who consumed high levels of meat (and bone matrix from fish) in the absence of plants exhibited significant and consistent osteoporosis. The Aleutians, however, who lived in Northern latitudes also, had very robust bones. The only difference in their diet was the “variety of sea mammals, fish, invertebrates, and land and marine plants”.
            There are those that discredit the whole acid-base theory, but somewhere in there, the people that ate plants had strong bones, the ones that didn’t had osteoporosis across the board. I don’t know if the Aleuts got more vit D somewhere in there to balance the retinol,or more of the bone building minerals, but the evidence is quite clear that the Inuit did have weak bones.

            If you have read the book, I would love to hear your opinion on the subject, because it was a bit of a shock to me that I have osteopenia. I’m fit and healthy, but now I have to reassess things and figure out why my bones are weakening.

            Since the BMD test i have changed my approach a bit:
            I have cut out the CLO, cut out the salt, increased the greens (I always ate lots of fruit and veggies, but mostly root veggies) and added in a vit K2 supplement.
            I will go back to get another BMD done at my work in a few months and see if it makes a difference. I KNOW the Paleo approach is best way to go for me (I had chronic sinusitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and daily headaches for years until I stumbled across it) it’s just a matter of tweaking it to fix up the bone issue 😉

        • Diana Bennie says

          I was diagnosed with osteoporosis 20 years ago. I have never had a bone fracture. I’m now in my early 70’s. I was put on Fosamax for 15 years, taken off it for 2 years and put on it again and it was then changed to Risedronate. After a lot of reading I have told my doctor I.m not taking this class of drugs again as they are too toxic and we now know they can have some terrible side effects. I have been on a paleo diet for just over 2 years. Two books I would recommend are The Myth of Osteoporosis revised by Gillian Sanson and The Osteoporosis Diet by Ray Hinish. Both are available on kindle. From all my reading it seems that we need to keep our diet alkaline which means about 3 times as much fruit & veg as meat, fish, eggs, & nuts. Dairy is the most acid food of all. As for supplements, Calcium as citrate, Magnesium as citrate and Vit D. Just remember that low bone density doesn’t mean weak bones. Just keep exercising in a way you enjoy. I walk and do country dancing.

  8. says

    So I fry all my food in the super healthy olive oil and get my omega 3s from flax seeds right? Got it!

    Jokes apart… brilliant post Rob! Its about time you wrote this definite article on fish oils, especially after all the back and forth on whether fish oil supp is good or bad or ugly.

    “If you do not know if you are big or little, please disavow all knowledge or the paleo diet and adopt veganism. Please.” – LOL! Classic!

  9. Andy says


    Many thanks for this thorough analysis of the subject. I’ve followed your site for a long time and I think you’ve just delivered the most informative post yet.


  10. says

    I have been trying to take less supplements the last few weeks as I eat a pretty well balanced “paleo” diet.

    I have fish oil capsules ( which 2 pills a serving for 1000mg of fish oil (330 EPA / 220 DHA). I have stopped taking these pills daily, and instead would take them only when I ate out at restaurant (food probably cooked in craptacular veggie/seed oil, or if I did not eat grass fed ruminant meat and/or fish that day).

    According to your new recommendations, should I be taking these daily anyway? Also seems like I should be taking at least 2 servings (4 pills) to get close to 2 grams of DHA/EPA).

    I am also considering buying the fermented fish oil (the one Chris Kresser recommends) once I finish this bottle. He says he enjoys the taste :)

    I guess most people take pills daily regardless of what they ate that day, whereas I am trying to adjust based on what nutrients I have taken in.

  11. WesW says


    Thanks again for another great post. Speaking of lifestyle and feedback, I tried the GABA, liquid D3, and liquid melatonin stack you spoke of a few Pod-Casts ago. (This is referring to the Naval guy). The stack has been the only thing that has worked, as far as, aiding me falling and staying asleep. I did this in conjunction with switching my workouts to early mornings. I tried the early morning workouts without the stack, but I still had problems staying asleep. I know that you didn’t offically “recommend” the stack, but I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a few years and took the supplements out of despiration. Thanks for all that you do.

  12. Brenden says

    Awesome post, just a quick question on fish. I just purchased some “fresh” frozen salmon from my local grocery chain.
    I was poking around the internet looking at efa’s in salmon and I found this chart:

    I was just wondering if anyone knew if that was an accurate reading? The reason I ask is because as you can see in the chart there are some foods the recommend that I wouldn’t eat well eating paleo.

  13. says

    That is interesting about fish oil and trig decrease. My husband has been taking fish oil to improve his cholesterol numbers. In the past year, his trigs have gone down considerably (not to a healthy range yet, though), but his HDL is still very low and his LDL and total cholesterol levels are still high. If I can get him to read your article, maybe he’ll come to terms that he can’t just pop a pill and expect miracles; his overall diet needs to change.

    • Greg says

      I’m no biochemist (or elk slayer), but I have done a bit of reading in this area recently. The theory Robb posits in this article is interesting, but I do not think it comports with all of the scientific evidence at hand. Many studies have shown, for example, that chronic consumption of a diet high in fish oil (and to a lesser extent, fish oil supplementation) can profoundly reduce postprandial triglycerides in response to a test meal, regardless of the content of the test meal (see, e.g., Harris et al 1988[1]). In other words, dietary lipids of all kinds are either cleared more rapidly, or delivered to the serum more slowly or in lesser amounts, as a result of a few weeks of fish oil supplementation.

      Park and Harris (2002)[2] demonstrated that the reduction in postprandial triglycerides is due at least in part to enhanced clearance of chylomicrons, probably mediated by upregulation of lipoprotein lipase (by increasing its sensitivity to insulin?). If the effect of fish oil on triglycerides was due only to the theory Robb presents above, one would expect the postprandial effect of fish oil supplementation to be modest as compared to its effects on fasting levels. In fact, in folks with normal fasting triglycerides, fish oil supplements do not seem to have any effect in the fasted state, while they nevertheless have a significant effect postprandially.

      The same paper by Park and Harris cites other research showing that fish oil supplements reduce fasting triglycerides at least in part through their effect on reducing VLDL production. There seem to be many factors involved here, and the simple theory Robb presents does not seem to fit all of the facts.

      Anyway, I’m having a hell of a time trying to wrap my head around triglyceride metabolism. Blood sugar is literally a piece of cake compared to this stuff!

      1. Reduction of postprandial triglyceridemia in humans by dietary n-3 fatty acids. Harris et al 1988, Journal of Lipid Research.

      2. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation accelerates chylomicron triglyceride clearance. Park and Harris 2002, Journal of Lipid Research.

  14. J Oggier says

    I think it comes down to a small dose of common sense with a larger dose of “listen to your body.” I was trying to listen to the ‘fish oil calculator’ for some time when I first started my whole 30. After the initial 30 days, however, I stopped taking as much, because I was feeling “off.” I could tell there was something going on (oxidative stress?) as I was feeling run-down post-workout and also very frequently rushing to the restroom (TMI?).

    So, I just take 2g of an inflammation scavenger (EPA-DHA-CLA Complex) post-workout, and that’s all I’ve needed–as well as avoiding the aforementioned Linoleic acids. I can’t say I don’t eat a lot of nuts and seeds, because I do, but I think I do well on them, while others may not.

    Great post Robb. It’s also inspiring to see someone in the scientific community willing to retract something they used to support with good reasoning. Too often do we see medical scientists and biomedical researchers stand by their initial findings to avoid ‘looking bad,’ when in reality they’re looking worse for not owning up to their previous misconceptions. We’re all human, and we’re learning how to live the best we can. So, a mistake–that hasn’t killed anyone–once in awhile happens. At the end of the day, feel good, look good, perform great, and you’re probably on the right track!

  15. says

    Dear Robb,

    I love how you are always willing to revisit your findings, tweak them, change them and share what you have newly learned.

    It is so refreshing to have someone “at our fingertips” with your wealth of knowledge, who is continually honing his craft and who is not so set in his dogma, that he misses the forest for the trees.

    Thank you, thank you! And thanks for making this complex material understandable to the common man.

    Keep up the good work!

  16. Fred says

    Rob, I really appreciate how you’re willing to revisit subjects and revise your opinions when the science says you should. Now that you’ve knocked out 100 podcast episodes, maybe you’d devote your 101st to talking about all the stuff you’ve changed your mind about since starting this thing. Most folks don’t have the integrity to admit when their ideas required more baking, but you always have.

  17. says

    Thanks for clearing this up almighty Elk hunter!!

    I’ve been expecting this for a week or two, after hearing you and Chris Kresser talking about it on the podcast.

    Again, this is a mark of a true scientist, and someone of great integrity. Revising old recommendations, and saying “hey guys, I was wrong” is highly commendable!

    If you ever make to Kentucky….god forbid….let’s have a Norcal Margarita or two!


  18. Brett_nyc says

    Great post Robb. Dense and full of stuff like the of yesteryear.

    Is there any ideal time to be taking fishoil? empty stomach? with food? before bed?

  19. winni says

    Thank you for this! I’ve actually been known to search your blog for hours for any mention of fish oil. I knew the recommendations had changed, but I wasn’t sure how. Now I know. I’ll supplement with veg sourced and I am already eating a good amount of smoked sardines (almost 8mo preg, good for baby’s brain). Thank you again!

      • Jason H. says

        Does it apply to any wild game? I’ve been eating elk all year thinking I’m getting N-3. If not, what’s the best source of grass fed meat?

        • says

          Man, this Wolf guy obviously has _no_ clue what he’s talking about. I’m going to wait and change my CLO intake after I hear from someone who has some kind of hands on experience. Like maybe an Elk Hunter or a bio-chemist.

          …or an experienced trainer, or nutrition author.

          Geez, you let some people rack up a rep as a skilled copy-editor, sound engineer, guy-who-splices-still-shots of the speaker into audio files, while transcribing all their podcasts in Mandarin… and they get all preachy.

          I’m going to go ask Spurlock about Krill oil now.

        • Sharon says

          Many people all over the world (some who may be very desperate) hang on your words and “advice”. This is why I say you now have to up the professionalism and delete the slang. Sorry, but it’s true.

          • Chris says

            Actually Sharon, I think your posts would read better if you said “I think you should” as opposed to “you have to”.

            Re your comment, I think Robb should be Robb, I think many other people including yours truly like him just the way he is. Friendly, open, real, and very forthcoming with information…. and since we are sharing opinions, based on what I have seen of your comments here I think you my dear, are in serious need of a shag.

            Just something I think, you know?

  20. says

    1-LIMIT linoleic acid!! You’d think after I jumped up and down about his for the past 1500 words that it would be obvious, but I just wanted to make sure we are clear on this. Nuts, seeds, corn, safflower, sunflower and similar seed oils are “no bueno.”

    In that last statement, do you mean “nut oils”?

      • MountainMom says

        Thanks for the nut link. And hallelujah re macadamia nuts. Not sure I could get enough calories in with out macadamia nuts. Just haven’t been able to get the spoonful of coconut oil down yet.

      • Carolyn Myers says

        Yes…BLAK LABL…I am confused on the nut seed thing now…
        So yes in moderation to nuts and seeds literal and oils? Or no?

        Thanks Robb…I have adopted the paleo way after years of belly discomfort- 6 months now and I am 12 kilos lighter and have never felt better…



  21. says

    Great article! Disappointing that fish oil supplementation won’t offset typical n-6 intake. Between the high levels of lectins, phytic acid, and n-6 found in nuts, looks like another of my favorite foods is moving to the “occasional indulgence” list.

  22. Chris says

    Thats a f**king sexy breakdown of fish oil and you made it super simple. Much appreciation coach.
    Whats the chances of you also writing a sultry piece on what your new take is with carbs and how much/what kinds etc?
    I could understand you not wanting to for the fear that you will be bombarded with emails and comments about people saying that X amount of weight has been gained or x amount of problems have started because you said all you can eat under 400g at yogurtland is ok :)

  23. Amy B. says

    Right on, Robb!

    In my (non-expert) opinion, limiting n-6 upfront rather than trying “offset” it with a ton of n-3 is the way to go. A good analogy is, you can call in more and more firetrucks, or you can STOP. SETTING. FIRES.

    I was going to applaud you for revisiting your own theories and past recommendations when new or more precise scientific evidence comes to light, but it looks like lots of folks already beat me to it. I guess I’ll say it anyway — kudos, Robb. Really. It’s proof of your genuinely wanting to *help* people get well that you’ve revised some of your recommendations. And really, none of what you’ve supported in the past has been proven “wrong,” per se. It’s just undergone some retooling and comes with a couple of caveats now. Let your conscience rest: having recommended large amounts of fish oil is NOT the same as, say, telling people margarines made from partially hydrogenated soybean oil are better for the heart than good old-fashioned butter.

    The basics and foundation of your take on a Paleo diet are the same as they’ve always been (just eat real food for godsakes, people, make it the best quality you can afford, eat non-grain carbohydrates to match your energy output, and stop stressing over the details when you haven’t even mastered the big picture!), but the odd bits here and there have gotten some tweaking over time. I very much dig that you’ve always made this simple for people, whether they see it as such or not — put your big girl panties on and go strict for 30 days. *After that,* play around with the details and see/feel how you do. But like you’ve said: if you’re still eating spaghetti, do you really have any business worrying about krill oil vs. regular fish oil, or organic vs. n-3 enhanced eggs?

    Forest for trees, people, forest for trees.

    Amy — who’s glad she likes sardines and mackerel!

    • pbo says

      Right on, I feel like I have been a broken record w/ my family and friends on this, couldn’t have said it better Amy.

  24. says

    Awesome post. Thanks for getting the info out in both the lengthy science bit as well as the boiled down “here’s what to do about it” bit.

    When I help people to prioritize how to choose foods in a Paleo framework, after #1. Eat whole foods I place at #2. Avoid seed oils. I would venture to guess that my “your sweet potato fries at a restaurant aren’t doing you any favors as a “paleo” option when they’re fried in seed oils” is likely people’s least favorite part of my seminar.

  25. suzan says

    Besides fermented CLA (please, no can do…) what other Fish Oils do people like? I have a very difficult time digesting fish oil capsules, and try to eat fish instead, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

    Not asking for specific brand “recommendations,” – just tell me what works well for you. Thanks.

  26. says

    NO NUTS? Dude, you just broke my heart. I eat nuts sparingly every day. Walnuts, Mac nuts, pecans, almonds. NO NUTS?!?! aaaarrrgghhhhhhhhhh!!!

  27. Andy says

    And everyone said I was crazy and going to die because I avoid extra polyunsaturated fat and opt for saturated fat… of course now they’ll just say I’m crazy and annoying (because I’ll force ’em to read this article)

  28. Luke says

    Hey Robb :),

    I can only get conventional meats -> I buy only lean meats -> Since I do want to get enough fat, I generously put olive oil over my meat and veggies. So here is my question: is it easily possible to overdo omega6s with olive oil? btw., I don’t eat any nuts because I don’t tolerate them (I guess that’s got for my o6-o3-ratio) and pastured butter is not an option for the same reason.

    Answer would be greatly appreciated :)


  29. says

    “Eventually the Zone was canned and folks were told to get protein and carb intake up to levels that matched activity. Things REALLY improved!”

    I know the post was on Fish Oil and this was a side note at best, but I loved seeing this. I wish more people would learn to listen to their bodies instead of trying to find the one size fits all golden-macro-ratio like the Zone prescribes! And for people who do tweak it, if you’re on a Paleo-Zone at 2x blocks protein, 5x blocks fat and .5x blocks carbs, why even call it the Zone at all?

    Kudos Robb!

    • says

      Exactly. When I worked for Crossfit it was like trying to follow religious doctrine. So long as I called it “zone” I was ok, no matter how far from the zone my recommendations had to be to show superior results.

  30. Mary Ann Bachus says

    Just became your new best fan after reading your fish oil theory adjustment. Good for you for staying receptive to change. Shows your brilliance and competency.

  31. says

    I’m sure you remember my weird experiment where I see how many steps I can take while holding my breath during a walk. Nuts and seed oils have an easily detectable impact on that simple assessment.

    The worst impact I ever saw was the day after killing two cans of Blue Diamond Wasabi Almonds. They use additional seed oils to roast the almonds, and make the flavorings stick. I went from 12 steps the day before to 8 steps the day after. And at the time, I wasn’t looking for it. Now I’d be biased because I’ve seen what it does.

    If anyone doubts that a gross imbalance of N-6 and N-3 (or just a gross intake of N-6) makes a giant difference, I recommend that experiment to them.

    I don’t supplement with fish oil at all these days. I don’t eat out often, so 95% of the beef I get is grass fed. I don’t use nuts for fats, and eat them rarely. I eat sardines a couple of times a week. It’s doable, and like anything you make into a habit, feels pretty easy these days.

    • says

      I think n=1 experiments like this are awesome and still quite significant (not statistically but whatever.) I’ve noticed improved focus and concentration when eating really clean. My self test for this is to see how high I can count in my head without losing track. It’s usually less than 200 before I lose concentration when I’ve eaten crap but I’ve gotten into the thousands on walks with my dog when I’m eating very little Omega-6 and added sugar. It’s also quite meditative for me, I’ve always had symptoms of ADD but never officially got tested. Have any other self experiment results Bill?

  32. says

    Great article. I really respect you for publicly revising your recommendation like that.

    I really love this new recommendation, it’s smart and simple, I can sum it up in a minute to a friend on SAD.

    Just one question: how many grams of fish oil must I supplement if I eat 5 fries? Cause I can still eat 5 fries, right? 😉

  33. says


    Any current way to accurately quantify lipid peroxides? Obviously, I’m considering the high end athlete with low N-6 and higher N-3 from supplementation.
    Thoughts on BioHealth’s LP test?:

    Also, any thoughts of triglyceride versus ethyl ester format? More bio-availability w/ TG, but concerns w/ EE?

    • says

      I’ll need to look at that. They are using a urine test (aqueous) to track LIPID peroxides? This would need to be an indirect measure…no really care on the ethyl ester front, roll with what you like.

  34. David says

    good essay. informative. but please – – haven’t you heard of a carriage return? break up those long paragraphs!

  35. z says

    Thanks readdressing fish oil supplementation.

    If you get the fermented CLO from green pastures that is gelled, you can fish out a teaspoon and swallow the giant glob without getting much on the taste buds. That stuff is revolting. Makes me wonder what personal hygiene was like when fermented fish oil was all the rage. 😮

  36. Whit says

    I LOVE that you threw in that atlatl pic at the end. Great shot, by the way. And great post! It’s nice to see someone who’s well-respected in their community willing to step down from a prior stance in light of new information. I wish more public figures in nutrition were willing to do the same.

    Keep up the good work!

  37. SAnt says

    So if I have a liquid fish oil that’s listed at 4g total fat per tsp, I should be taking 1/2 to 1 tsp a day? Or are you talking about total Omega-3 fatty acids which is listed at 1g per tsp and would mean I need to take 2 to 4 tsp a day?

  38. EJ says

    Good to see this update from the atlatl master. :) I take 1 tsp of the green pastures brand butter oil/ fermented cod liver oil blend gel “cinnamon tingle” flavor. I gotta say, thankfully all I can taste is cinnamon. No burning sensation in the throat either. So if anyone is wanting to try fermented cod liver oil, I suggest this flavor. I’ve heard not so nice things about some of the other ones. 😉

  39. Bodhi says

    Hey Robb, really great to see you revising your position as new information becomes available. I’ve just started reading Chris Kresser’s blog and “Another reason you shouldn’t go nuts on nuts.” was the first entry I read.

    Also, unrelated, props on being openly Libertarian. I salute you, sir.


  40. Aeryn says

    I’ve been curious for awhile, would the drawbacks of increased Linoleic acid intake from Evening Primrose oil supplements for menstrual cramps outweigh the purported benefits, if you had to speculate without holding a clinical trial?

  41. says

    Great post, spot on. Although some people don’t like hearing they might want to limit nut intake, I find it works better for a lot of em (myself included).

  42. says

    Ah, it’s about time. I always questioned the ridiculous amount of fish oil intake by you in your first podcasts. I knew you would come around at some point and tell us to simply avoid the omega 6.

    To keep it simple I tell people to focus on meat and veggies. Meat includes all fish and seafood. If you focus on these 2 food groups and eat as much as you freaking want then one should be golden. One needs to experiment outside of here. Eat some eggs, fruit, macadamias, chocolate, etc.

    But, meat and veggies… no one except for them vegans can argue against that. Right?!

    Oh, lots of herbs and spices too!

  43. Stacey says

    I just started Paleo on Monday after reading your amazing book. I purchased all of the recommended supplements and have been eating 1 Oz of almonds every day and take 2 1000mg Berleans pharm grade fish oil capsules a day (EPA 370mg/DHA 230mg).

    This is a so new and overwhelming and I’m thoroughly confused and concerned! I am new to your podcasts, etc and the responses to this one indicate other changes to the recommendations in your book. Have you posted anything in one list that spells out the changes?

    What is your updated overall supplement recommendation for someone like me who just started, purchased my supplements, mapped them all out based on your book and filled weekly pill dispensers in advance so I dont miss a single dose?

    As far as the almonds and Berleans, I stop the almonds and make sure I eat more grassfed meat or the butter and it appears im not taking enough of the Berleans to achieve the 2g of EPA/DHA??

    Please help! I’m trying so hard and really want to do this right!!

  44. says

    Really awesome post, I got started on the paleo lifestyle with your book and site in January and have gradually moved from balancing my diet with Omega-3’s to limiting Omega-6’s all together. Kudos for staying on top of the research and admitting publicly when something you’ve suggested previously might not be ideal anymore, most scientists wouldn’t do that to save their first born. Keep it up dude.

  45. Liz says

    What about macadamia nut oil? Haven’t we been told recently (by Mark Sisson, among others) that this is a great fat to use (right up there with coconut oil)?

  46. Jim says

    I’m pretty new to Paleo and but I’m a little confused, in all the intro material you recommend nuts and nut oils but then in this post you say pretty strongly to avoid them, which is it? Are some better/worse than others? Thanks

  47. says

    Hi Robb,

    Just a suggestion. Maybe you can have a tab on your homepage for the folks who are new to paleo or just read your book. This will give them the latest and greatest updates and or revisions to your book. Kind of like the FAQ section, but with direct information for newcomers. This is what I have changed and why I feel this way, etc. Thank you Robb for all of the helpful information!

  48. Gene says


    So, if we’re limiting linoleic acid, then presumably we’re limiting the previously vaunted olive oil. What are you making your salad dressings from these days?

  49. Mike Buscaglia says

    So no Macadamia or Almonds? Christ lol.

    Whats funny is Ive been crossfitting for about three years now and slowly and boy do I mean slowly am trying to get into the paleo diet. So Ive started at the beggining of the podcasts and im only 10 deep.

    Im going to be behind the curve for the next 10 years the way Im going. Whatever, I make sure all my meats are 100% grass fed and my eggs are cage free and omega3 enhanced. Letting go of Friday night pizza, Saturday College gameday and Sunday funday…100% Paleo just aint happening.

    Hopefully in 10 years Rob will publish a blog saying he fucked up and should have been reccomending 3 massive cheat days a week. Lol

      • says

        Well, when it comes down to wheat/gluten/grains, it’s none at all for me thank you! Beans too. Had way to much of this stuff in my former veg life! Yikes. I feel so much better and at 24lbs lighter, that’s pretty sweet! I owe it all to you Robb! Thanks for the great work that you do and the information that you provide to all of us.

  50. Marc says

    Hi Robb,

    are walnut oil and canola oil in any way better or worse than olive oil? Does it matter at all which plant oils I use? Or do I just have to keep attention to the amount I’m using?

  51. Arual says

    I wanted to suggest that one way to get the fermented cod liver oil down is by chasing it with pickle juice. Easy for me to say, however, as I’ve been drinking pickle juice for fun since I was a wee lass–I prefer Bubbies brand, they’re made the traditional (fermented) way and taste way better than vinegar-brine pickles.

    Also, if you think the FCLO is bad, try adding the “High Vitamin Butter Oil” to it. That stuff is detestable.

  52. MountainMom says

    Anyone out there do successful gf baking for their kids WITHOUT almond or rice flour? Just thinking about how many almonds make 1.5 cups is overwhelming. And to think my family’s new favorite is the Morning Glory muffin in Paleo Comfort Foods. Of course, I’d rather give them almond than wheat flour. Any research in kids and high linoleum intake?

  53. says

    Robb – So now I’m confused…I should NOT be eating my almonds and pecans? I was so proud of myself for home roasting and making my own almond butter, but if I understand correctly, I should discontinue? Also, how do you feel about homemade mayo using the following ingredients: coconut oil, omega-3 eggs, mustard, lemon juice, sea salt? Is this a good way to intake fats?

  54. Juan Pablo Bentin says

    Hi Robb, where i live (Lima, Peru) it´s very hard to find pastured, grass fed meat, eggs, dairy, etc. And if you get to find them, they are very expensive. Should i sick to eating more fish?? I try as far as i can to avoid the grain-fed but it’s very difficult and i love meat and eggs! Can´t i just keep supplementing fish oil and keep away from linoleic acid?

  55. soccerTREE says

    Interesting stuff!

    After an initial boost with fish oil (Carlson’s)I have found getting my omega 3’s from fish seems to be much more effective for me in improving my condition further (joint/nerve/tendon pain,chronic tight muscles, fibro symptoms etc). E.g. 3g of omegas from fish oil vs Can of Salmon with 2.7g of omegas.
    Now some of the effect probably is a reduction of other meat that the fish replaces leading to less omega 6.
    But even taking this in to consideration it feels like it could be more potent.

    Has anybody else felt this at all?

    I remember one day in particular where I had 200g of tinned pacific salmon and 200g of tinned sardines and the next day I felt amazing! According to the tins it equaled about 9.7g of omega 3s. It got me to such a great level that fish oil hadn’t and theis post makes great sense why this would be the case. I.e. the reduction of omega 6s from other sources.

    I’ve been toying with the idea of doing this regularly as I’m relatively limited for options financially at the moment, and it’s a cheap way of sorting the omega 3 balance.
    Though obviously the barrier is this increases any toxins etc coming from fish.

    Anybody ever used pre-emptive chelating strategies to get round this?
    I was reading about how the likes of Cilantro and ALC/ALA can help chelate heavy metals.

    P.S. Robb, if you read this. Many thanks for what you do,be proud! I’ve literally gone from a wheelchair no hoper with my whole body seeming shutting down to being able to walk (a bit) now using a combination of different resources with your book/website/podcast being key players. I’ve still got a long road ahead but I feel blessed to have your stuff man!

  56. Tara Tooley says

    Any comments on increased bruising when fish oils are increased?

    In the past when I have increased my fish oils I noticed an increase in ‘easy’ bruising. Recently I signed up for a local Crossfit competition and opted for another try increasing my fish oils to manage workout recovery – basically planning on overdoing it for a few weeks.

    The easy bruising came right back… so I increased my Vitamin C using 2 EmergenCs a day (2000mg of Vit C). Got the bruising under control and had AMAZING workout recovery.

    • Stephanie says

      I’ve heard this complaint before from some individuals consuming high doses of fish oil. Since fish oil is a natural blood thinner, it reduces your bloods ability to clot. Fish oils ability to prevent blood clotting may lead to prolonged bleeding and bruising in individuals who are taking either too much fish oil or using it in combination with other blood thinning medications. So excessive fish oil consumption may play a role in the bruising, but there are other factors that may be of more concern.

  57. Stephanie says

    I’m sorry if this has been covered but I’m looking for any primary research studies that show long term detrimental effects of taking high does fish oil. I could have sworn I heard it mentioned on one of the podcasts but since I’m listening in reverse to the old episodes, I’m not sure where I heard it.


  58. Stephanie says

    I’m sorry if this has been covered but I’m looking for any primary research studies that show long term detrimental effects of taking high dose fish oil. I could have sworn I heard it mentioned on one of the podcasts but since I’m listening in reverse to the old episodes, I’m not sure where I heard it.


  59. Dan M says


    you have way too much patience. I honestly don’t know if your work is a good or bad thing for the world. Maybe it would be better to let evolution take care of some of these people.

    Cheers Dan M

  60. Susie says

    Robb, Omega 3s are so fragile, how can we ever guarantee that the fish oil we take hasn’t been denatured/oxidized through the shipping process?

    • Paul Kayley says

      You can’t so just don’t bother with them. Focus on minimising n-6s and forget about supplementing fish oil. Dr C. Masterjohn has written an excellent piece of research titled “How Essential are the Essential Fatty Acids?” – The outcome = their required amounts of EFAs are so extremely small that you don’t need to even think about them… its close to impossible to not get enough of them.

  61. Paul says

    Nice article Robb. A bit of lipid back pedaling going on there – part of the learning curve which we’re all riding eh! After all these years geeking around the big questions of nutrition, my first bit of advice to anyone stupid enough to broach the subject of nutrition is – absolutely minimise your omega-6s and get over your unfounded fear of highly saturated fats. Hope you are well mate… I’ve missed your news in the womb-fruit department… did you have a boy or girl? How’s it going? All the best mate, PK

  62. Dave Yates says

    Robb, if you see this comment, would you do a post soon about the furor caused by Ohio State University’s study claiming Omega 3 supplementation causes an increase in cancer?

    My first thought, in this modern day where so many are “whoring” in the name of “science”, is:

    1. Who funded the study?

    2. How much money does OSU get from the pharmaceutical industry?

    NOTE: I’m not claiming there is a “conflict of interest”… but those are very fair questions to be asking given what has happened to the research culture at universities over the last few decades.


  63. ticamom says

    any brand of fish oil you’d recommend? The highest dose I’ve found is metagenics dha 600 concentrate (600mg DHA and 60mg EPA in 1 pill) and even then to get 2g you’d need to take almost 4 pills, so I was wondering if you had a better option. Also, any specific recommendation for pregnant women? Thanks!

    • says

      Chris Kresser recommends three 6oz servings of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, fish eggs, etc) per week for pregnant mothers. If you aren’t following the fish recommendations, then he recommends Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil (10mL/day) and DHA Purity (2.5mL/day).

      Eating some fish and seafood regularly is probably the best way to get omega-3, along with limiting excessive omega-6 intake. Here’s a good guide to picking a fish oil otherwise

  64. Bonnie says

    I’m with Sharon-I am grateful for the information that is presented. However using breast size as a reference, or mentioning strippers (in other articles), and cursing is completely offensive.
    Maybe strip clubs and women’s breasts are a source of humor for some of you, but can it be saved for your personal communiques and not in a science article???

    • Lindsay says

      He isn’t forcing you to read or listen to his Podcasts. If you do not like the way he presents the material, dont listen or read it. He is a human and is allowed to express himself how he would like. Personally I think your opinion is offensive! I think Robb is hilarious and I wouldn’t want to learn about health and lifestyle any other way!

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