HEALTH BENEFITS

  • EPA that is present in fish oil can help fatty acids deficiency in chronic fatigue syndrome. According to researchers from Hammersmith Hospital, UK, dietary supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids may be a possible mechanism for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. This is because Omega-3 is able to reduce production of cytokine that is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome (Journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 2002).

Increasingly, new data emerging from researches all over the world, seems to show that, EPA along with DHA, helps in mood disorders. As a consequence of the low fat diet, we are getting lesser amounts of the Omega-3 fatty acids for healthy brain function and mood levels. Depression is more strongly correlated with coronary artery disease than any other personality variable, probably because both are caused by lack of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Of course, Omega-3 fatty acids have been noted to have anti-inflammatory effect. A study was done on 29 children with bronchial asthma. They were given dietary supplementation with fish oil for 10 months. These groups were compared with a controlled group that was not given any fish oil supplement. Asthma symptom scores decreased in the fish oil group but none in the controlled group (Eup Respair J.2000 Nov; 861 -5.).

Another separate study done in Australia concluded that a high intake of Omega-6 oils from margarine and vegetable oil actually increases the risk of developing asthma. This study shows that Omega-6 oil promotes inflammation and Omega-3 fish oils on the other hand, is anti-inflammatory. (Thorax 2001 Royal Children Hospital Melbourne, Australia).

Studies have demonstrated that Omega-3 fish oil supplementation has an anti-inflammatory effect in Chronic lung disease characterised by difficulty in breathing (Chest 2005;28:3817-3827). It has a protective effect on exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) (Chest 2006; 129:39-49)

EPA supplementation can reduce morning stiffness, painful and swollen joints and ease movement that cripples arthritis (Adv. Ther 2002 Mar-Apr:19 (2)101).” Bad eicosanoids” created by the over consumption of refined carbohydrates and Omega-6 oils encourages the inflammation for joint pains. Supplementation of Omega-3 fish oil suppresses the production of these bad eicosanoids (Atherosclerosis, 1990:81:209-216).

Fish oil supplementation actually improves clinical status in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (J. Rheumatol 2000 Oct: 27 (10); 2343-6) and is beneficial to patient with established rheumatoid arthritis (J. Rheumatol 2001 Nov: 28 (11): 2563-5). Fish oil won’t work as fast as a drug. It will not give you quick and temporary relief like aspirin would. You have to be patient as the healing from within, will take several months. Full modification of immunity may take up to nine months. Your patience will be rewarded as this therapy is free of side effects. (Arthritis And Rheumatism, 1994; 37: 824-29). Again, we are talking about high doses – between 3 to 4 grams of EPA.

Powerful anti-inflammatory effects of EPA are best demonstrated in auto-immune disorders. This is because supplementation of dietary omega-3 fatty acids might lead to a decrease in the number of auto-reactive cells such as the T cell which dies. Furthermore, fish oil supplementation seems advantageous especially in acute & chronic disorders where inappropriate activation of immune system occurs. The Omega-3 boosts the immune system that seems to identify parts of the body as invaders and takes an all out effort against those parts. Diets that are high in Omega-3 fish oils, increases the survival and reduce disease severity in spontaneous auto-antibody mediated disease (Proc. Nutr. Soc 1998 Nov: 57(4): 555-62). The doses of EPA and DHA in excess of 3 grams can actually calm down the active immune system.

The efficacy of Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA has been demonstrated clinically in diseases like colitis and Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, characterized by the infiltration of activated T cells and monocytes/macrophages in the intestinal wall. The importance of omega-3 fatty acids in the prevention of intestinal inflammation in Crohn’s disease has been proposed by several investigators. The low incidence of Crohn’s disease in Japan for the past few decades suggest that, a fish-oil-rich diet has protected Japanese against occurrence of the disease. They found that the increased incidence of Crohn’s disease was strongly correlated with the increased dietary intake of total fat, animal protein and an imbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid. (J. Gastroenterol 2000; 35: 173-175).

Large doses – up to 10 grams a day – have lowered the number of angina attacks by 41 %. Tolerance to exercise can also increase. The risk of sudden death is also cut down to half! (Angiology 1994; 45 (12): 1023-31).
In fact four clinical trials on Omega-3 fish oils for heart were released in March and April 2002. In the study involving 11,000 heart patients and randomised to supplements of Omega-3 fish oils, there was a statistically significant reduction of 42% in sudden death due to heart disease after 3 months compared to placebo. (Circulation: April 2002; 105:1897).
In another study involving 85,000 female nurses who were free of cardiovascular disease and were followed up for 16 years, higher consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids was associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease. (JAMA 2002 April 10;287(14):1815-21).
A statistical analysis of all past studies (11 trials published between 1966-1999) involving Omega-3 fish oils also showed overall reduction of death due to heart attacks and sudden death in patients with coronary heart disease. (American Journal of Medicine March 2002; 112(4):298-304).
The Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish were also strongly associated with a reduced risk of sudden death among men without evidence of prior cardiovascular disease. This was the conclusion of a study of apparently healthy men who were followed up for 17 years in the Physician’s Health Study. (New England Journal of Medicine, April 2002).
There is now strong positive evidence to proof the efficacy of Omega-3 fish oil in reducing heart related incidence and death. This is now shown by the many clinical trials appearing in peer-reviewed International Medical Journals which are highly reputable and respected.

Fish oil has been documented to help prevent irregular heart beat (American Journal of Cardiology, 1995 76: 974-77). Fish oil supplements can help establish normal rhythm and work well especially combined with minerals and a sugar free diet (Canadian Journal of Pharmacology and Physiology, 1997; 75: 234-39). In fact Dr. Robert Marchioli of the GISSI group study proposed that the anti-arrhythmic effect of the Omega-3 fish oil was responsible for the 45% reduction of sudden death, in a study involving 11,000 Italian patients. (Circulation April 2002; 105:1897).

In a study, researchers led by Dr Alexander Leaf from Harvard Medical School have provided evidence that in individuals at high risk of fatal arrhythmia, regular ingestion of Omega-3 fish oil may significantly reduce them. (Circulation 2005; 112:2762-2768)

Fish oil has been shown to help control blood pressure at doses of just 2 grams daily. (Archives of Internal Medicine 1991; 151:1173-80) Early studies have yielded inconsistent results, but more recent experiments, using 4 grams of EPA and DHA daily have proven to be quite successful. (Annals of Internal Medicine, Dec 1995:123 (12) :911-18). They work better when employed in association with a low carbohydrate diet like the Zone Diet.

  • Recent research has shown beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on serum triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol, Lipid peroxidation and antioxidant enzymes which may lead to a decreased rate of occurrence of vascular complication in diabetes (Diabetes metals 2002 Feb;28(1 ):20-6). In addition, fish oil helps to maintain flexibility of the arteries, important for decreasing plaque buildup that leads to hardening of the arteries. Fish oil supplementation also cuts the abnormal finding of protein in the urine of people with diabetic kidney disease. (Lipids 1990; 25(9):541-45).

An imbalance in eicosanoids can cause problems like eczema and psoriasis. A study was done by a group of German scientists showed that increased concentration of omega-6 fatty acid caused inflammation in psoriatic patients. However, intravenous Omega-3 fatty acids administration causes reduction of psoriasis (Br. J. Nutr 2002 Jan; 87 Suppl 1: 77-82). Daily dosages of 10 grams or more are required. Lower amounts do not always help.

A cross sectional analysis of data from the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported an improvement in forced expiratory lung volume between adults who took Omega-3 fatty acids compared to those who did not consume. Omega-3 fatty acids was also protective against physician diagnosed emphysema and chronic bronchitis (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000 Jan;71(1 Suppl):3935-65). Taking fish oil over a period of nine months improves results of pulmonary function test.

Absolutely! The growing baby needs lots of DHA in particular, for the brain and nervous system to grow. DHA is also the main fatty acid of the retina. It is also important for the development of a robust immune system. A dose of 1,500mg is recommended.

Many studies indicate that the DHA component of the Omega-3 family is essential to early childhood brain and retinal system development. Omega-3s is therefore believed to be essential to good health and normal development of both the fetus and newborn. Research indicates that children born to mothers consuming higher quantities of omega-3 rich fish are healthier at birth and exhibit higher IQs later in life, especially if the infant is breast fed for 6-8 months. It is important to understand that the beneficial long chain omegas-3s are found in fish, not vegetable source omega-3s like flaxseed oil.

Omega-3 fatty acid is the major fatty acid of brain tissue and the nervous system. The DHA content of the brain triples in the third trimester and increases fivefold in the first three months after birth. Nature has made sure that the vital supply of this essential fatty acid is made available via breast milk. Thus, no supplementation is necessary during the breast-feeding period. Nursing mothers need to take more Omega-3 fatty acids while she is breast feeding so that levels of Omega-3 fatty acid are adequate. After the initial breast-feeding period, the infant may be fed by the Omega-3 enriched infant formulas. Omega-3 supplementation should be instituted after the third month.

The prevailing thinking is that the mood swings seen in bipolar disorder are triggered by overactive signaling between neurons in the brain. Many of the drugs used to treat bipolar disorder act by slowing down this neuronal activity. Previous research has suggested that the consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids is also associated with “a general dampening” of these brain-signaling pathways.

A group of researchers have found that the serum levels of DHA determine the availability of the hormone, serotonin, in healthy participants. In short, the more the DHA present, the higher the serotonin levels (Biochemical Society Transactions 1998; 26 (2): 5142). Most of the newer generation anti-depressants work by increasing the brain levels of serotonin. DHA does the same thing without the associated side effects.

Since the brain needs DHA, a rich supply of DHA would help keep the brain fit. It is presumed that DHA is able to prevent brain degeneration that is normally associated with aging-memory loss and decline in mental function.

At the extreme end of this aging spectrum is the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, there are clear trends pointing to an increased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States since the push to the low fat diet several decades ago.

Dementia is a condition where the intellectual faculties deteriorate. In fact, supplementing with DHA might reduce your risk of dementia. Ernst Schaefer from Tufts University found that the amount of DHA in the blood at age 65 is a possible predictor of whether or not you will become senile in old age. Schaefer determined the amount of DHA in the plasma of 1,137 healthy elderly individuals.

Over the next nine years, 64 of these subjects developed dementia. Those with the lowest DHA levels at the start of the study had 160% greater chance of becoming senile. Schaefer’s work supports an earlier Dutch study of 51 elderly men. In this study, men who were eating the most fish were least likely to become senile. Low Omega-3 fish level in plasma is a risk-factor for all forms of dementia and cognitive impairment. (Lipids 2000 Dec; 35[12] 1305-12.)

Interestingly, those who took diets high in Omega-6 fatty acids were mostly likely to suffer from dementia. (Kalmijin, S, E.J.M. Feskens, and D. Kromhout. polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, Anti-oxidants, and cognitive functions in very old men. (American Journal of Epidemilolgy, 1997:145[1]: 33-41).

There is some intriguing new data about school going children. Recently, researchers at Purdue University measured the essential fatty acid levels of 100 boys aged between six and twelve. They found that kids with the highest levels of Omega-3 fatty acids have least learning problem. (Stevens, L.J., Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Boys with behaviour and health problems. Physiology And Behaviour, 1996: (4/5):915-20).

Supplementing Omega-3 fish oils might enhance mental abilities of adults. A certain type of brain wave called “p300” is linked with learning and memory capability. The faster the rate of transmission, the more efficient the brain functions. The mental capability rate declines with age and is even more noticeable in those affected by dementia.

This theory was tested on twenty-six normal healthy adult volunteers. They were hooked up to electrodes and were given tests that determined their “p300” rates. Immediately after this, they were given supplements of DHA. Two hours later, their brain waves were measured again. This time, the rates were significantly faster in those given DHA. The researchers concluded that “DHA therefore, appears to be an effective drug that could improve mental function in healthy persons.” (Myanaga, K., K. Yonemura, and K. Yazawa. DHA shortens p300 latency in healthy persons. Presented in International Conference On Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acids In Nutrition and Disease Prevention. 1996 Barcelona, Spain).

In studies with infants, it was found that new-borns supplemented with DHA exhibit improved brain development, which allows them to process information faster (J Nutr 2000; 130:1629-32).

Since the retina has one of the highest concentrations of DHA, you could expect it to affect vision. Indeed, it does. One area that looks promising is dyslexia – a learning disorder characterised by reduced ability to recognise written words. Sometimes, there may be “visual switching” of words and letters in afflicted individuals. A report done by British researchers stated that patients treated with 480mg of DHA showed marked improvement in one month (The Lancet; Stordy et. al, 5th Aug 1995). DHA also seems to help with retinitis pigmentosa – a hereditary degenerative disease of the retina.

This brings problems like night blindness, narrowing of the field of vision and an eventual loss of vision.