I recently ran across “Why Fish Oil Fails: A Comprehensive 21st Century Lipids-Based Physiologic Analysis,” a review by B. S. Peskin which claims to debunk previous claims about the health benefits of marine oil supplements. Abstract (emphasis added):

The medical community suffered three significant fish oil failures/setbacks in 2013. Claims that fish oil's EPA/DHA would stop the progression of heart disease were crushed when The Risk and Prevention Study Collaborative Group (Italy) released a conclusive negative finding regarding fish oil for those patients with high risk factors but no previous myocardial infarction. Fish oil failed in all measures of CVD prevention—both primary and secondary. Another major 2013 setback occurred when fish oil's DHA was shown to significantly increase prostate cancer in men, in particular, high-grade prostate cancer, in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) analysis by Brasky et al. Another monumental failure occurred in 2013 whereby fish oil's EPA/DHA failed to improve macular degeneration. In 2010, fish oil's EPA/DHA failed to help Alzheimer's victims, even those with low DHA levels. These are by no means isolated failures. The promise of fish oil and its so-called active ingredients EPA / DHA fails time and time again in clinical trials. This lipids-based physiologic review will explain precisely why there should have never been expectation for success. This review will focus on underpublicized lipid science with a focus on physiology.

The review sounds legit on the surface, but other sources question the author’s credentials and good faith. For example, Quackwatch has a brief describing Peskin’s legal troubles in Texas, which “charged Peskin and the company with making false claims that he held a Ph.D degree, was a research scientist, and was a professor at Texas Southern University.” That case ultimately resulted in a permanent injunction barring Peskin and company from making false claims about their products and credentials.

I’m reluctant to dismiss good science based on the reputation of the scientist, but in this case the scientist’s background suggests that he may not be working in good faith. What does the independent evidence say in this case? Does marine oil “fail” as alleged in the review? Can the review be trusted? Can the author be trusted?

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    The question title is vague and broad. How does an oil "fail"? If you were to choose one claim about fish oil, per question, you will likely get more better answers.
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 30, 2014 at 22:56
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    @Oddthinking The question title is an allusion to the title of the review under scrutiny, “Why Fish Oil Fails.” I’m essentially asking whether this bold-sounding article is legit. If there’s a better way to write the title to reflect that, I’d be happy to change it. Apr 30, 2014 at 22:59
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    Perhaps the title should be something like this: Does fish oil “fail” as this review claims? That sounds a bit more cumbersome and less catchy, but it might also be less misleading. Apr 30, 2014 at 23:00
  • Also, I’m aware that some of the specific claims in this review have already been addressed in other questions, like Do fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids increase the risk of cancer? Apr 30, 2014 at 23:03
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    @Oddthinking I see what you mean. I think I’ve isolated the review’s core claim, which I have emphasized in my quotation of the abstract: (paraphrased) “all recent studies show that marine oil supplements are useless or even harmful, and we should have seen it coming.” A good answer should be able to support, refute, or partially refute that core claim. Apr 30, 2014 at 23:16

1 Answer 1


The paper has now been retracted.

The article titled “Why Fish Oil Fails: A Comprehensive 21st Century Lipids-Based Physiologic Analysis” 1, published in Journal of Lipids has been retracted as a result of an undeclared competing interest on the part of the manuscript’s author.

While this doesn't directly speak to the accuracy of the paper, it does speak to the author's willingness to lie (or lie by omission) for personal gain which in turn casts doubt on the authenticity of the paper.

There's a blog post including an email from the guy who triggered the investigation that lead to the retraction.

Some selected quotes that do directly discuss the accuracy of the paper:

The article was filled with vast numbers of references, and highly detailed mechanistic explanations, but surprisingly little empirical evidence to back these up.

The author made numerous logical errors and wild extrapolations. He repeatedly drew conclusions that didn’t follow from his premises. He used appeal to authority, toward the vague entity of “21st century lipid science”… This is the kind of language I would expect in marketing, not biochemistry.

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