Fish Oil Medicine

October 30, 2013 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

One of the strengths of evidence-based, natural medicine is confidence. As a consultant, educator and writer, I have confidence about my positions because they’re backed by peer-reviewed, scientific evidence. Therefore, I’m not just one lonely voice making an impassioned argument. Rather, I’m part of a collective of voices that uses documented facts and findings to further the cause of natural health care. This very same philosophy can be used by individuals who have no particular interest in working in the field of medicine. In fact, it can work equally well for anyone who simply wishes to incorporate more natural remedies into their treatment program.

The odds of a conventional doctor supporting the use of natural remedies goes up or down based on how you present your case. One of the best ways to get your physician to work with you when wishing to use a natural supplement is to provide her or him with evidence that is difficult to dismiss. For instance, bringing a print out of one or more scientific studies that establishes the efficacy and safety of a given therapy is very helpful. Below, are five examples of studies that prove that fish oil supplementation can be used safely alongside conventional treatments for a variety of conditions. What’s more, the health benefits and/or the mitigation of medication-induced side effects is also described in each trial.

Study #1: Taking 1.2 grams/day of fish oil for 12 weeks resulted in improvements in psychosocial functioning and a reduction in psychopathology in a group of fifteen adolescents diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Study #2: 5.5 grams daily of DHA and EPA (fish oil) dramatically increased remission rates in patients receiving drug treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Study #3: The addition of fish oil to a liquid diet given to elderly diabetics caused meaningful declines in fasting blood sugar, HbA1c (a measure of long term blood sugar) and apolipoprotein B (a risk factor for heart disease).

Study #4: Taking 2 grams/day of fish oil for 9 weeks lowers inflammatory markers and protects against unwanted weight loss in patients undergoing chemotherapy for colorectal cancer.

Study #5: Supplementing with 4 grams daily of fish oil in combination with interferon therapy is “highly effective” in addressing chronic inflammation and oxidative stress in adults living with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

One final piece of advice: a few of the study links below provide free access to the full texts of the papers I cited today. The remainder offers only abstracts or summaries of the trials. Please note that presenting your physicians with the full text is always preferable to the abstract. If a free version of the complete text of a study isn’t available, you can always purchase it from the publisher. The price varies from journal to journal, but is typically less than $50. Another option is to call or email one of the authors of the study itself. Contact information usually appears at the beginning of a paper or can be found by searching the Internet. Many times, researchers are more than happy to send complementary copies of the full text of their studies to interested parties.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in Adolescents with Borderline (link)

Study 2 - Fish Oil in Recent Onset Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Randomised, Double- (link)

Study 3 – Eicosapentaenoic Acid Improves Glycemic Control in Elderly Bedridden … (link)

Study 4 - Fish Oil Decreases C-Reactive Protein/Albumin Ratio Improving … (link)

Study 5 - Efficacy of Fish Oil on Serum of TNF α , IL-1 β , and IL-6 Oxidative Stress (link)

Fish Oil Supplementation May Reduce Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Mar;66(3):399-404. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Bone and Joint Health, Nutritional Supplements

7 Comments & Updates to “Fish Oil Medicine”

  1. Ted Hutchinson Says:

    Those who feel medical, nutritional research shouldn’t be hidden permanently behind paywalls, may want to join this campaign to highlight the extent of the problem. Open Access Button

  2. JP Says:

    What an excellent resource! Thank you, Ted!

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update: Fish oil may promote the repair of damaged blood vessels …

    Fish-oil supplementation alters numbers of circulating endothelial progenitor cells and microparticles independently of eNOS genotype1,2,3,4

    Background: Emerging cellular markers of endothelial damage and repair include endothelial microparticles (EMPs) and endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), respectively. Effects of long-chain (LC) n−3 (omega-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and the influence of genetic background on these markers are not known.

    Objective: We investigated effects of fish-oil supplementation on both classical and novel markers of endothelial function in subjects prospectively genotyped for the Asp298 endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) polymorphism and at moderate risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

    Design: A total of 84 subjects with moderate risk of CVD (GG: n = 40; GT/TT: n = 44) completed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 8-wk crossover trial of fish-oil supplementation that provided 1.5 g LC n−3 PUFAs/d. Effects of genotype and fish-oil supplementation on the blood lipid profile, inflammatory markers, vascular function (by using peripheral artery tonometry), and numbers of circulating EPCs and EMPs (by using flow cytometry) were assessed.

    Results: There was no significant effect of fish-oil supplementation on blood pressure, plasma lipids, or plasma glucose, although there was a trend (P = 0.069) toward a decrease in the plasma triglyceride concentration after fish-oil supplementation compared with placebo treatment. GT/TT subjects tended to have higher concentrations of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, but vascular function was not affected by either treatment or eNOS genotype. Biochemical markers of endothelial function were also unaffected by treatment and eNOS genotype. In contrast, there was a significant effect of fish-oil supplementation on cellular markers of endothelial function. Fish-oil supplementation increased numbers of EPCs and reduced numbers of EMPs relative to those with placebo treatment, which potentially favored the maintenance of endothelial integrity. There was no influence of genotype for any cellular markers of endothelial function, which indicated that effects of fish-oil supplementation were independent of eNOS genotype.

    Conclusion: Emerging cellular markers of endothelial damage, integrity, and repair appear to be sensitive to potentially beneficial modification by dietary n−3 PUFAs.

    More Info:

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Update: Fish oil may reduce damage caused by heart attack …

    “WEDNESDAY, March 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) — High doses of omega-3 fatty acids may protect against further damage in heart attack patients, a preliminary study suggests.

    The research included 374 heart attack survivors who received standard treatment and took either a 4-gram prescription-only dose of omega-3 fatty acids each day or a placebo. The researchers said that people probably couldn’t get that level of omega-3 fatty acids from diet alone. To illustrate how large a dose that is, the researchers noted that 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids is the equivalent of eating 8 ounces of salmon.

    Using MRIs, the patients’ hearts were scanned two weeks, four weeks and six months after their heart attack.

    Compared to those taking the placebo, patients taking the omega-3 capsules had lower levels of inflammation and were 39 percent less likely to show deterioration of heart function. There was also less thickening or scarring of the areas of the heart that were not directly damaged during the heart attack. This thickening, also known as fibrosis, often develops when the surviving heart muscle works harder to compensate for the damaged tissue, according to the researchers.”

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 05/17/16:

    Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2016 May;108:45-50.

    The clinical benefits of long-term supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids in cystic fibrosis patients – A pilot study.

    Effectiveness of omega-3 supplementation in cystic fibrosis (CF) remains controversial. This study sought to evaluate clinical status, exercise tolerance, inflammatory parameters, and erythrocyte fatty acid profile after 1 year of oral omega-3 supplementation in CF patients. Fifteen ΔF508-homozygous patients undergoing chronic azithromycin were randomized to receive omega-3 fish oil supplementation at a dose of 60mg/Kg/day or placebo. In comparison with the previous year, in the supplemented group, the number of pulmonary exacerbations decreased at 12 months (1.7 vs. 3.0, p<0.01), as did the duration of antibiotic therapy (26.5 days vs. 60.0 days, p<0.025). Supplementation significantly increased the levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as early as <3 months of administration, with concomitant decreases in arachidonic acid (AA) levels. This pilot study suggests that long-term omega-3 supplementation offers several clinical benefits as to the number of exacerbations and duration of antibiotic therapy in CF patients.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 06/26/16:

    Biomark Res. 2016 Jun 23;4:13.

    The effect of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on incidence and severity of oxaliplatin induced peripheral neuropathy: a randomized controlled trial.

    BACKGROUND: Oxaliplatin induced peripheral neurotoxicity (OXIPN) is the major dose-limiting and long-lasting side effect of oxaliplatin. N-3 PUFAs have neuroprotective property via their effects on voltage-gated ion channels and by reducing the production of proinflammatory cytokines that causes neuropathy. This study was a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial to find the possible advantages of n-3 PUFAs for preventing and reducing the severity of OXIPN in patients with colon cancer.

    METHODS: Eligible patients with colon cancer randomly allocated to take n-3 PUFAs pearls, 640 mg t.i.d during chemotherapy with oxaliplatin and one month after the cessation of the treatment or placebo. All patients were evaluated for incidence and severity of OXIPN based on “reduced Total Neuropathy Score” in which clinical and electrophysiological assessments were included.

    RESULTS: Seventeen patients (47 %) of the n-3 PUFA supplemented group (n = 36) did not develop PN while it was 11 %(4 patients) in the placebo group (n = 35). There was a significant difference in PN incidence (OR = 0.14, .95 % CI = (0.04 to 0.49), p = 0.002). The difference of OXIPN severity was significant between the two study groups (B = -1.61, 0.95 % CI = (-2.59 to -0.62), p = 0.001).

    CONCLUSIONS: N-3 PUFAs may have neuroprotective effect for reducing the incidence and severity of OXIPN. Finding an effective prophylactic or symptomatic therapy for OXIPN would significantly improve the patients’ quality of life.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 10/17/16:

    Plasma eicosapentaenoic acid is negatively associated with all-cause mortality among men and women in a population-based prospective study

    Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have anti-inflammatory properties while omega-6 PUFAs appear to have pro-inflammatory properties. We aimed to assess plasma omega-3 and omega-6 PUFA status in relation to all-cause mortality in an Australian community-based study. We hypothesized that omega-3 PUFA would be inversely associated, and omega-6 PUFA positively associated with all-cause mortality. Plasma phospholipid omega-3 (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoeic acid (DPA), docosahexaenoic acid, α-linolenic acid, and total) and omega-6 PUFAs (linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, and total) were measured among 1008 adults (44% men) in 1996. Plasma PUFA composition was quantified using gas chromatography. During 17-years’ follow-up, 98 men and 81 women died. After adjustment for potential confounding factors, plasma EPA was inversely associated with all-cause mortality overall (adjusted hazard ratio (HR) per 1-standard deviation increase 0.81, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.68–0.95), in men (HR 0.78, 95% CI 0.62–0.98) and women (HR 0.78, 95% CI 0.65–0.94) separately. Inverse associations with mortality among men were also seen for DPA (HR 0.76, 95% CI 0.60–0.97) and α-linolenic acid (HR 0.73, 95% CI 0.57–0.94). No omega-6 PUFAs were significantly associated with mortality. Our findings of reduced all-cause mortality in men and women who have high EPA in plasma, and in men with high plasma DPA and α-linolenic acid, partially support our hypothesis that omega-3 PUFAs help reduce mortality but provide no evidence that omega-6 PUFAs may increase mortality.

    Be well!


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