Fish oil supplements (sans liver) are ok, says UK professor

By David Visick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fish oil supplements, Vitamin, Dietary supplement, Fish oil

The UK professor who found himself at the heart of an industry storm after his remarks on the value of food supplements were misquoted in the national press has spoken out to clarify his position.

Earlier this month British newspapers reported Professor Brian Ratcliffe as saying that many food supplements were ineffective for the majority of people and overuse of vitamin C could lead to stomach problems.

The reports suggested he had said that recommended levels of Vitamin A could be easily exceeded if a consumer was to combine multivitamin use with omega-3 fish oil supplements.

Professor Ratcliffe of the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, made his remarks at the British Science Festival earlier this month.

Fish versus fish liver oil

In a statement prepared by the UK Health Food Manufacturers' Association (HFMA), he said: “I am well aware of the content of fish oil supplements and my comments were in no way, or at no time, addressed to those.

“I clearly referred to the combination of 'fish liver oils' taken with multivitamins, but unfortunately subsequent media reporting has failed to include the vital ‘liver’ part. Clearly, those taking fish oils with multivitamins would not be at risk from exceeding the recommended daily dose of Vitamin A or D​.”

Graham Keen, executive director of the HFMA, said the association had been keen to speak to Professor Ratcliffe directly to clarify his views. “We were especially concerned by the inaccuracies in Professor Ratcliffe’s reported claims, in particular those suggesting that users might consume excessive vitamin A when combining multivitamins with fish oils,​” Keen said.

“The subsequent coverage in response to this story, namely the Daily Mail’s ‘Vitamin pills a waste of money?’ even suggested that taking more than 400IU of Vitamin D per day could be ‘lethal’ – an outrageous claim that is totally inaccurate.

In its article Multivitamin pills 'can do you more harm than good'​ the Daily Mail quoted Ratcliffe as saying that a lot of people who took supplements were “simply wasting their money and fuelling an industry that is to some extent exploiting their fears.”

Keen added: “We are extremely disappointed to learn that, once again, the media has failed to responsibly report on the significant role that supplementation, alongside other healthy lifestyle choices, has to play in safeguarding the nation’s nutritional sufficiency.”

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