Weston Price Myths

by Steven Carney on April 20, 2015

This is post #121 on the site, about the biased, anti-fish oil writing on the Weston A. Price site, including unfounded comments Sally Fallon made in several e-mail exchanges with me. The following information will debunk Sally Fallon’s unscientific claims and provide a more accurate perspective and balance on fish oil supplements.

Feel free to browse the vast amount of information and resources here. For past articles on a range of breakthrough nutrition, health, prevention, aging and lifestyle topics, simply scroll down below this one. Also check the tabs above for more research, tips and other resources.

Although it pains me to do this post, I have little tolerance for the spread of misinformation and misrepresentation about supplements and health by those who should know better. The truth needs to be told, so it’s time to do some myth busting for the anti-fish oil claims put forth by the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF).

It started when I updated the WAPF, explaining that the 3 bogus reviews by Brian Peskin that had all been retracted. I worked since last fall to debunk his work and get his junk, anti-fish oil reviews retracted.

I sent the update to the WAP site because they had panned Peskin’s cancer book along with a related article he wrote on omega-3 fats and fish oil. Peskin sells a competing omega-3 formula and has resorted to attacking fish oil for several years. He claims that fish oil causes cancer, heart disease, blindness, Alzheimer’s, aging, and other unfounded, nonsensical claims. His work is filled with extreme bias, serial exaggeration and poor science. He is a marketer and businessman, not a scientist. Peskin also has a sordid history of misrepresenting his background credentials (professor, doctor, scientist) and making unfounded claims for his supplements, paying $100,000 to the State of Texas to settle his false claims.

After I sent my first message to the WAP site, Sally Fallon, the President and co-founder of the WAPF responded. Her initial reply shocked me, because she apparently liked and believed much of Peskin’s bogus anti-fish oil claims and reviews (see details and links below).

As I exchanged more messages with Sally, I was stunned by her lack of nutritional knowledge and background for fish-oil/omega-3 fats, even though the WAPF mission statement talks about education and research, including the phrase “accurate nutrition instruction.” As you will soon see, this claim is undercut by her obvious nutritional ignorance, along with her unfounded proclamations against fish oil supplements.

In spite of their stated mission, Sally demonstrated unacceptable levels of nutritional and research ignorance in her e-mails, even after I sent my initial message with links to Peskin’s retracted studies (apparently having all of his studies retracted for a range of serious problems wasn’t a concern to Sally). Having a study retracted is a serious matter and it isn’t done very often. Sally should have seen Peskin’s retractions as a big red flag to her because the publishers said his studies were biased, unreliable, and below their standards!

I used to trust the WAPF site, but I was upset for days by Sally’s unfounded anti-fish oil proclamations, thinking their work was based on science and careful analysis. Now I know better! As you will soon see, they are agenda based at WAPF, pushing saturated fats whenever possible; they are not objectively based on science.

Sally responds to my first message

Here is Sally’s response to my initial message with links to Peskin’s retracted studies:

Hi Steve, I am a little confused. While we didn’t like his book [where Peskin claims fish oil causes cancer], he did some good work on fish oils (modern, heat processed), which really are junk and more and more are being shown to cause disease rather than prevent it. We recommend low temperature processed cod LIVER oil. Best, Sally

First of all, those are big claims (Peskin did good work on fish oils, modern fish oils are junk, shown to cause disease rather than prevent it, etc.), sounding like copies of Peskin’s bogus work, especially considering that she now knew Peskin’s studies were retracted based on the publisher’s investigations (the links I sent included the publisher’s reasons)! Sally’s claims are unfounded and not based on science at all!

Here is my reply to her initial response:

Hey Sally:

I don’t know of any credible studies that show modern fish oils cause disease. There have been some outliers like the SELECT rehash that are biased and lack good methodology (and used no fish oil whatsoever). Peskin relies on mostly older lab and small mammal studies, the vast majority of which don’t carry over to humans. There are many hundreds of human studies that refute Peskin’s claims, ones he consistently ignored in is reviews.

I’ve debunked nearly every single citation Peskin used in his 3 review studies and the journals that published them agreed. and both Hindawi and Scientific Research Publishing are known by many as little more than vanity press operations that have almost no actual peer review whatsoever.

Feel free to send some links to credible, replicated studies that show modern fish oil softgel caps causing any disease in humans (non-associative studies, of course), and hopefully recent, say post 2010.



Rather than respond to the details I offered, or include any links or expert papers to support her wild, exaggerated disease claims, she doubled down, offering this simplistic and biased response:

Well, we do not recommend fish oils, they are quite toxic. but we do recommend cod liver oil. Best, Sally

So fish oils are toxic? Says who? Indeed, Peskin made similar claims but he had no credible support from replicated, well-done human studies. In fact, many of Peskin’s citations actually came to the opposite conclusions, undercutting his claims (but his publishers didn’t review his citations until I exposed their consistent inaccuracy). It’s as though he never actually read them, often pulling isolated quotes out and ignoring critical details or study flaws.

I asked her in what way are fish oils toxic. She responded with this bit of unscientific nonsense:

They are boiled at 230 degrees for hours. This damages the fragile omega-3s and makes them rancid and toxic. Fish oils are really an industrial product.

Also, there is a real danger of overdosing on omega-3s See the article Precious yet Perilous on our website.

We recommend the cold-processed fermented cod liver oil. It is high vitamin so you only need a little bit to get your A and D, and then you don’t overdose on omega-3s. It should always be taken in the context of a diet high in saturated animal fats like butter.

Best, Sally

Sally seem so comfortable making these bold, overblown and inaccurate proclamations. And they clearly show that she knows nothing about how modern fish oil supplements are sourced, manufactured or QC tested throughout the manufacturing and distribution process (see many details and links below). I wondered what decade she was living in. The 1970s or 1980s?

Her kind of amateurish and unfounded bombast continues to spread across the Internet as more mass media and amateur blog sites spread misinformation about fish oil and other supplements, often based on Peskin’s junk science. Her comments reflect gross ignorance and a shocking lack of research savvy (I include many study links below). I predict that Sally never checked any of Peskin’s citations or verified his unfounded claims.

The article she mentioned is from her site and is largely based on a historical review of EFAs, older studies and a few outliers. It’s not convincing in the least and really doesn’t support her wild claims!

For example, her claim that fish oil is “boiled at 230 degrees for hours” is not based on correct math or fact. She is referring to some decades-old material that claims that fish oils are steamed at 90-95 degrees Celsius (which is actually 195-203 degrees Fahrenheit)! That’s NOT boiling, which is at 212 degrees and above. That particular process takes minutes not hours (essentially, the fish are gently cooked to facilitate the separation of the oils). Some companies like Nature Made use ambient (room) temperatures for their processing, which is similar to other cold-pressed oils (like EVOO, see detailed list below).

I again asked for independent testing or research to support her claims. She sent a few, decades old references, one to a technical paper from 1986 (almost 30 years old) and one to a patent application that was also more than a decade old! And she never did support her exaggerated, even false claims about toxicity or disease with any credible studies or expert articles or papers (I continually asked for supporting research, independent testing, etc.).

She again referenced information that 2010 article from her site called Precious yet Perilous, which again, was written based on old material, and very biased and because it ignores huge numbers of human studies that refute her claims.

I refuted her “boiled at 230 degrees for hours” claim and sent her a batch of human studies that showed no harm from oxidation or rancidity and multiple benefits for fish oil, again pointing out their bias and their obvious agenda (I’ll include those links below). She didn’t respond to a single study link I provided (I doubt that she read them either), showing how biased and closed minded she was.

Her reply was this:

I think the best thing is to just send some samples out for analysis for rancidity. We will do that this year.

But even without the rancidity problem, do you really want to be overloading your system with all those omega-3s? We really don’t need a lot, especailly if we are eating plenty of saturated fat. Sally

So now she is boldly claiming that we are overloading our systems with omega-3 fats. But again, where is the science or expert analysis? At what dosages do we overload our systems? She offered no dosage ranges for EPA or DHA for healthy intakes vs. overdosing, no numbers or studies to support her overblown proclamations. Who says we are overloading our systems with fish oil? Are people taking handfuls of fish oil softgels? Again, this is unacceptable bias, not science. For a site that claims to educate people accurately, these claims reflect unaccptable levels of misinformation and unproven nonsense! It’s shocking and embarrassing! WAPF, you need some real scientists there!

I then asked what a few samples would show (considering that there are thousands of fish oil supplements now), knowing they would probably exaggerate whatever results they found, even showing the slightest bit of oxidation. I predict that if WAPF does test any fish oil supplements, they will want them to be at least a little rancid so they can crow about those few samples and exaggerate the findings to say something like “almost 50% of the samples showed some rancidity” without providing the actual numbers, industry standards or reference ranges, brands, expiration dates, etc.  That’s what bias does, it destroys objectivity and skews how tests are designed and how the results are presented. I see it in research often.

For now, I’d like to include some information and links that cover modern fish oil manufacturing and testing standards, many of which have been in place for decades, and which totally contradict Sally’s claims and fear mongering!

For example:

1. Nature Made, a brand of fish oil I’ve used and researched, is independently tested for potency, bioavailability and purity by the USP (U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention), an independent testing organization for drugs and supplements. They test for oxidation (rancidity), potency, contamination and bioavailability. If those fish oils were toxic or contaminated in any way, they wouldn’t pass (and the USP requires ongoing testing, not just an initial set of tests)!

2. Nature Made said they add natural vitamin E as an antioxidant because they are aware of the potential for oxidation (synthetic E is less effective). They also check the Anisidine value to monitor oxidation during shipping and storage of the raw fish oil. And their oil is made from wild fish, not farm raised.

3. The fish oil is stored under nitrogen gas to minimize oxidation to air exposure. Once received at their final packaging facility, the fish oil is tested again and quickly encapsulated into a softgel to prevent oxidation.

4. Nature Made fish oils are processed under conditions that limit heat exposure. All processes are done at ambient temperatures. The fish oil is pressed out using a cold-press process. It’s similar to an expeller press for herbal oils, like flaxseed and basil oils. So much for Sally’s overly-broad claim that fish oil is boiled at 230 degrees for hours (she mentioned no exemptions like Nature Made)!

5. The softgel seals the fish oil and provides a barrier to keep out oxygen, which prevents the softgels from going rancid. They have ongoing testing of the softgels for possible oxidation going past their expiration date to make sure they are still healthy.

6. Like most manufacturers, they recommend that the product be stored in a cool, dry place, and to use by the expiration date right on the label. And the version I use is the Triglyceride form, often more bioavailable then the ethyl ester form as outlined above.

Did you begin to see that these manufactures do pay attention to the quality of their products and do lots of testing to make sure they are healthy?

Here is a link to some information for how fish oil is made, including links about vitamin E antioxidant forms and why the form really matters:





More industry links for quality standards and testing

Here are more links covering common industry practices for fish-oil quality and safety from several global organizations. These also undercut just about all of Sally’s and WAPs claims of fish oil dangers or harms, based on claimed oxidation/peroxidation, toxicity or that fish oil causes disease (she seems to know nothing about what industry has done for over 10 years):

This link is to the IFOS and their testing standards (including EPA and DHA levels, contaminants, peroxide, Anisidine, oxidation, heavy metals, etc.). The IFOS has been around for over 10 years, since 2004, and has certified about 100 fish oil manufacturers and all their numerous products:


This article shows that fish oil manufacturers have had quality and safety measures since the early 2000s (long before the WAP posted its article):


Here is a link to the GOED site with information and strict standards for fish oil manufacturing. They also have hundreds of member manufacturers, and many produce multiple versions or sizes of fish oil:




And the CRN debunking the 2010 fish oil lawsuit in California (settled long ago), which Peskin apparently supported:


Now if you go through all those links and material, you will see that Sally’s overblown proclamations that fish oils are rancid and toxic are largely unproven and false for hundreds of fish-oil manufacturers and their numerous products.

And although Sally claimed that fish oil is rancid (or oxidized) and toxic, she never offered any credible scientific proof or current lab tests to support her claim (again, small, single studies are NOT considered proof beyond that study until the study is replicated with large numbers of human subjects in credibly-designed studies). The links below show no harms, even when oxidized oil is used!

Fish oil oxidation dangers disproven

The following 15 links are to a range of human studies that actually tested fish oil peroxidation and oxidative stress with human subjects. Not only did they find no significant adverse effects or harms from fish oil or algae-based oils, many of these studies had beneficial outcomes that conflict with Sally’s claims of harm, even at doses around 4 grams/day (I bet she would say that 4 grams per day was an overload amount):







http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22136711  (See full study link below)






Full study for above abstract #22136711:





As you can see, these studies show replicated effects and benefits, with many showing the opposite effects for Sally’s unfounded claims that fish oil is rancid, toxic or causes disease (no dangers or harms, multiple benefits, including lower inflammation and less oxidative stress).

In fact, the research is probably 10:1 or 20:1 in favor of fish oils/omega-3 fats. That’s an indication that good studies are being replicated and junk ones that Peskin and Sally use are not being replicated. In short, there is little support for Sally’s wild claims and much that counteracts them, with most research showing broad benefits, including lower inflammation.

Are MDA tests reliable?

One of the big, Peskin-like claims that Sally and the WAPF article make (Precious but Perilous a title I find to be a bit ridiculous for an educational or science-based site) is that a 1997 study showed that a specific type of fish oil (menhaden) increased a lipid marker for oxidation called malondialdehyde, often abbreviated as MDA. The single study was on 80 men so it’s considered a pilot study (studies with less than 100 subjects are usually pilot studies), meaning a preliminary study on humans, rarely seen as proof by themselves without significant independent replication on larger numbers of subjects).

The oil source was menhaden oil, which is not commonly used as a base for most fish-oil supplements. And the placebo was olive oil, known to have its own anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, so this was a poorly designed study using an active placebo (placebos are supposed to be inactive and inert with no active ingredients that could skew the comparisons). This kind of flaw is major and undercuts the study claims. Yet no one noticed at WAPF? Again, this is science? No, another example of ignorance and bias!

In addition, the subjects were given very high doses of more than 6 grams of fish oil per day, which is 5-6 times a normal 1,000 or 1,200 mg fish oil capsule. And, this fish oil was “preserved” with synthetic vitamin E (the dl form), known to be largely ineffective as already outlined above. This is another major flaw in the study. And again, no one at WAP noticed? This is expert nutritional education? This is accurate information? It’s anything but!

The fact that the study is almost 20 years old is yet another red flag, as hundreds of fish oil manufacturers routinely test for oxidation as outlined above. Overall, a quick analysis of that 1997 study reveals too many flaws for its results to be credible, but when people are biased, they are blinded by their bias and rush to judgement as they ignore study flaws, poor design and important details. Here is a link to their study abstract:


I reviewed many similar studies that Peskin used but he actually misused many of those studies. Many run counter to the WAPF article and Peskin’s claims of rancidity or toxicity for fish oil (I already included some relevant studies above). Here are links to 3 of my Peskin debunking posts with the following quotes taken from the second link (I knew within minutes that all of his reviews were bogus junk, yet Sally thought his work was good?):




Peskin seems ignorant about how TBARS [and related oxidative stress markers like MDA] are affected by a host of lifestyle behaviors and status, including age, smoking, drinking, dietary habits, glucose levels, antioxidant status, stress, weight/obesity, exercise, hydration, cholesterol levels, arthritis, disease, etc. And most studies don’t do a good job at tracking these confounders, rendering small studies highly preliminary or outliers.

Unfortunately for Peskin, the level of TBARS for the fish oil users appears to be normal, at 1.2 µmol/L (with a possible high level around 1.5, see links below). And what does the study title from the link he offers really say? Here is the title and several key discussion points from the full study:

Supplementation of postmenopausal women with fish oil rich in eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid is not associated with greater in vivo lipid peroxidation compared with oils rich in oleate and linoleate as assessed by plasma malondialdehyde and F(2)-isoprostanes.

From the Discussion section:

The results of the assays of in vivo lipid peroxidation did not uniformly support the idea that increased numbers of double bonds in dietary PUFAs result in increased susceptibility to lipid peroxidation. In fact, the most specific indexes of lipid peroxidation used in the present study (F2-isoprostanes and MDA) were not higher after fish-oil supplementation than after sunflower oil and safflower-oil supplementation. . .

The fact that the results of the MDA and TBA assays suggested different conclusions regarding the effect of increased consumption of fish-oil on in vivo lipid peroxidation emphasizes the importance of the measurement issues raised by this research. Many of the assays available for the measurement of lipid peroxidation in vivo lose their utility when specific PUFA concentrations in plasma vary as a result of changes in dietary intake.

Indeed, the quote outlines the author’s discussion regarding the challenges of these various tests, including variables, confounding factors and reliability. And again, they were using supplements in the year 2000. Of note is that the fish oil used was a very large dose (which Peskin would quickly say is a massive overdose at about 3.5 grams of EPA/DHA, about 6-10 times more than a normal fish oil softgel, which has about 300-500 mg of EPA/DHA). The fish oil used also included the preservative TBHQ, which also could have influenced the results (as indicated above, most modern fish oils add vitamin E).

As is so often the case with Peskin, he simply glosses over and manipulates study details and complexities, only seeing and presenting what he chooses to.

More about TBARS testing and their unreliability

And TBARS, a test Peskin refers to often in his reviews, is a complex and controversial test, including how to accurately interpret the results as the links below will show. Here is a quote from that abstract:

Thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) and malondialdehyde (MDA) have been used as biomarkers of lipid oxidation for more than thirty years. The validity of these biomarkers has been rightfully criticized for a lack of specificity and problems with post sampling formation. Numerous assays have been published for their analysis giving rise to reference intervals for healthy non-smoking humans varying more than to [two] orders of magnitude [a huge variation].

Here is a link to the full study (Peskin only linked to the abstract):


In fact, these studies were also listed on the right side of Peskin’s cited research and as usual, they blunt or undermine his exaggerated claims (I include titles above the link):

Oxidation of plasma proteins is not increased after supplementation with eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids.


Supplementation of postmenopausal women with fish oil does not increase overall oxidation of LDL ex vivo compared to dietary oils rich in oleate and linoleate.


A TBARS study with 166 health male subjects (and other links with normal/abnormal TBARS values):







A study showing how much smoking raises MDA and lowers antioxidant levels:


Questioning the reliability of TBARS assay:




Here is a quote from the Discussion Section from the second link above:

In summary, this research demonstrates conclusively the inaccuracy that is inherent in TBARS assays, which claim to quantify MDA in biological tissues and fluids, and it is proposed that the continued reporting of such ambiguous data may limit the likelihood of detecting true differences in the level of lipid peroxidation in clinical studies.

Here is a quote from the third link above (PDF file from November, 2014, page 936):

The TBARS assay is a simple spectrophotometric assay that measures a chromogen that is produced by the reaction of thiobarbituric acid (TBA) with malondialdehyde (MDA), which is an endproduct of lipid peroxidation. The spectrophotometric TBARS assay is extremely easy to use, but is nonspecific in that many other substrates (e.g., aldehydes) can react with thiobarbituric acid. The lack of specificity with the simple spectrophotometric method has rendered it rather obsolete. Instead, most researchers today use an HPLCmodification of the TBARS method.

This TBARS section is classic Peskin when it comes to his big claims and weak citations. When you actually check what he cites, including all the details, it’s common that the study only appears to support his exaggerated claims but is often weak or undercuts his claims significantly. I found this problem often in Peskin’s Hindawi study, now retracted.

Small mammals don’t measure up

I noticed that the WAP article about lipids and fish oil (linked below) was largely historical in nature, and it relyed mostly on rat studies, a few human case studies and a few outliers for fish oil production and oxidation as already debunked above. I have compiled numerous links that debunk the relevance of lab and small mammal studies on human subjects (it’s time people doing research stop using so many small mammal studies and trying to claim the effects will work in humans until those are proven in credible and replicated human studies).

Although we do share many genes with small mammals there are significant differences in how those genes are activated or silenced. We have far more complex dietary, geographic and cultural practices, along with beliefs and lifestyle behaviors that significantly influence epigenetics and gene activation. It’s those key differences that determine the broad range of health, disease and aging in us that is markedly different in mice, rats and other mammals, something all researchers should understand.

The links below outline the severe limitations of using small mammals for research and assuming they carry into humans. One obvious example is that mice and rats only live a few years, which should provide a notable difference researchers often ignore. In the end, the effects seen in small mammals for diet, drugs, exercise, etc., rarely carry over to human subjects:











Because lab and small-mammal studies are so unreliable for human outcomes, most of the studies I use on my website are human-based, in vivo studies. I occasionally include small mammal studies if they show a possible mechanism of action for replicated effects already observed in human subjects.

Here is a link to that WAP article called Precious yet Perilous, hardly a title that conveys a scientific perspective:


Now here are a few general articles and studies on fish oil benefits to provide more balance and perspective, something Sally’s comments and their article largely omit (again, taken from my Peskin debunking post called Peskin’s Fish Tale a Whopper:









Pubmed search for fish oil benefits in human trials has 13 pages, and over 250 citations (Peskin relies on 4 badly done studies for his abstract):


This link is to another site with a collection of dozens of studies showing benefits for fish oil for a range of conditions:


Less inflammation, not more

Finally, here are a series of links to studies that show lower inflammation from fish oil, which means that fish oil can help prevent disease, not cause it (notice the replication in these human studies while Sally provided none to support her claims of disease):






















What shocks and disappoints me is that I thought the WAPF site was more scientific and trustworthy. Now I know differently, including their anti-soy positions (I’ve seen many human studies that show more benefits for soy than harms), although most modern soy products are from GMO soy, a real concern. I won’t take on all those issues here but taken together, I can no longer trust the objectivity of the WAPF site. Bias permeates their work, their choices of articles and studies. You must verify any content you see on that site with other source material.

I would like to summarize the qualities I have seen in Sally Fallon’s ignorant fish-oil comments (I bet you will agree):

  • Biased
  • Overblown
  • Exaggerated
  • Shallow
  • Simplistic
  • Amateurish
  • Sloppy
  • Unscientific
  • Untrustworthy

As a result, her comments and their article are sources of misinformation. Her ignorance of nutrition and research undercuts her claims about their site’s mission and accuracy. You can’t be scientific sometimes, sloppy other times and still maintain your credibility. Her comments and statements mislead in an unacceptable, even reckless way. She has consistently exaggerated the so-called dangers of fish oil (rancid, toxic, causing disease, etc.), and never provided credible proof, showing how little she knows about decades-old industry practices and the broader research that shows many benefits for fish oil.

Sally Fallon you have been officially debunked! I think you need to go back to school. You also need to get some training in research so you can tell what a credible study is, what’s a biased or poorly designed study, what source material is credible, etc. Because it’s really obvious that your knowledge of research and science, including the process of science is extremely limited. Because you are spreading of misinformation, you have earned a distinction!

I hereby induct you into my Hall of Shame, where you join the ranks of other quacks and pseudoscientists like Brian Peskin, along with his quack group of medical supporters, and all the other quack doctors who openly demonstrate similar anti-supplement bias, research ignorance and nutritional incompetence!

Congratulations Sally Fallon! You are the newest member of my Hall of Shame!

© 2015 by Steven Carney/End Sickness Now


{ 1 comment }

Siew April 21, 2015 at 1:50 PM

I am very glad to see your article! Thanks a lot and i’m looking forward to being in touch with you.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: