Saturday, April 21, 2007

Are you taking your fish oil?

Fish oils found to enhance overall health

By Dr. Allen S. Josephs

There have been so many excellent studies recently published, I don't know where to begin. Several of these studies pertain to fish oil, which is the primary focus of this week's newsletter. To give you an idea of the number of published studies, if you search "fish oil" at the National Library of Medicine, over 11,600 studies are available and rapidly climbing. In the March 2007 edition of the journal Atherosclerosis., 81 Japanese men with unhealthy blood sugar levels were randomly assigned to receive 1800 mg daily of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA - an omega-3 essential fatty acid from fish oil) with the other half being a control group. The thickness of the carotid arteries and certain measures of blood flow were measured before and after supplementation. This went on for approximately two years. A total of 60 patients (30 in the EPA group and 30 in the control group) completed the study. Those given the EPA had a statistically significant decrease in the thickness of the carotid arteries along with improvement in blood flow. The authors indicated that this was the first demonstration that administration of purified EPA improves the thickness of carotid arteries along with improving blood flow in patients with unhealthy blood sugar levels.Another study published in the American Journal of Health System Pharmacy March 20071, patients with high triglycerides and poor coronary artery health were given 4 grams a day of a combination of EPA and DHA along with some monounsaturated fatty acids. Those patients with very unhealthy triglyceride levels (above 500 mg/dl) reduced their triglycerides on average 45% and their VLDL cholesterol by more than 50%. VLDL is a bad type of cholesterol and elevated triglycerides can also be deleterious for cardiovascular health.There was another study published on the benefits of EPA in the prestigious journal Lancet March 20072. The study involved over 18,000 patients with unhealthy cholesterol levels. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either 1,800 mg a day of EPA with a statin drug or a statin drug alone. The trial went on for a total of five years. It was found at the end of the study those patients in the EPA group had superior cardiovascular function. Non-fatal coronary events were also significantly reduced in the EPA group. The authors concluded that EPA is a promising supplement for promoting cardiovascular health.There was another study regarding fish oil in a younger population published in the journal Nutrition, April 20073. Sixty four healthy Danish infants received either cow's milk or infant formula alone or with fish oil from nine to twelve months of age. It was found that those infants supplemented with fish oil had improvement in immune function maturation with no apparent reduction in immune activation.There was yet another study on omega-3 fatty acids just published in the April 2007 Journal of NeuroScience4. A group of mice were genetically modified to develop accumulation of amyloid and tau proteins in the brain similar to that seen in people with poor memory. The mice were divided into four groups with one group receiving a typical American diet (with high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids being 10 to 1). The other three groups were given food with a balanced 1 to 1 omega 6 to omega 3 ratio and two additional groups supplemented with DHA plus long chain omega-6 fatty acids. After three months of feeding, all the DHA supplemented groups were noted to have a lower accumulation of beta amyloid and tau protein. It is felt that these abnormal proteins may contribute to the development of memory loss in later years.Finally, there was another study published regarding omega-3 supplementation in children with learning and behavioral problems. This study was published in the April 2007 edition of the Journal of the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics5 where 132 children, between the ages of seven to twelve years old, with poor learning, participated in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded interventional trial. A total of 104 children completed the trial. For the first fifteen weeks of this study, the children were given polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6, 3000 mg a day), polyunsaturated fatty acids plus multi-vitamins and minerals or placebo. After fifteen weeks, all groups crossed over to the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) plus vitamins and mineral supplement. Parents were asked to rate their children's condition after fifteen and thirty weeks. After thirty weeks, parental ratings of behavior improved significantly in nine out of fourteen scales. The lead author of the study, Dr. Sinn, indicated the present study is the largest PUFA trial to date with children falling in the poor learning and focus range. The results support those of other studies that have found improvement in poor developmental health with essential fatty acid supplementation. Unfortunately, the only way to get safe levels of essential omega-3 EPA & DHA fatty acids is through highly purified molecularly distilled pharmaceutical grade supplements. There was a recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care linking pollutants found in fish to insulin resistance and Type II diabetes mellitus6. The study found a link between persistence organic pesticides (POPs) and diabetes with obese patients with low blood levels of POPs having low incidence of diabetes. I was actually disheartened to see recent data on a sampling of wild fish from Alaska dated Jan 2007. It is typically felt that wild caught Alaskan fish have much lower blood levels of dangerous heavy metals, but, unfortunately, most of the fish (salmon, halibut, cod, snapper, Pollock and many others) sampled had high levels of arsenic, cadmium and mercury, just to name a few. These heavy metals are highly toxic, are not easily excreted and tend to build in tissues in the body including the brain, kidneys, etc. generating free radicals and destroying healthy cells. There is an expression called "mad as a hatter." This referred to people who became insane and cognitively impaired from being exposed to high levels of mercury that was used decades ago in the hat industry. It would seem that the safest and most effective way to get these critical essential fatty acids is to take them in supplemental form.

Omega 3 EPA/DHA

Christopher Wiechert, C.N.C.

Christopher Wiechert's Healthblogger is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. If you decide to use this information on your own, it's your constitutional right, but I assume no responsibility.

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