New Omega 3 ResearchJanuary 11, 2010 Written by JP [Font too small?]
There’s a place in my mind that’s permanently devoted to natural health. It’s a living, breathing metropolis that has a cast of characters numbering in the hundreds. The foods, practices and supplements that make up of the population of this fictitious land are very similar to the bit players, heros and villains that inhabit any good story. In short, they need to constantly evolve and reveal more about themselves in order to remain interesting to readers and viewers alike.
Fish oil is no longer the new kid on the block in the alternative medicine world. In fact, it’s been around so long that even pharmaceutical companies have begun manufacturing omega-3 based medications. But that’s not to say that DHA and EPA, the chief fatty acids present in fish oil, are in any way boring or satisfied with their current reputation. Omega-3’s have a lot more to say and I’m here today as their mouthpiece.
- A new study published in the Journal of Urology reports that decreased levels of omega-6 fatty acids (commonly found in vegetable oils) and increased concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the growth of prostate cancer cells. This was determined via a dietary intervention trial involving 18 men with prostate cancer conducted at the Los Angeles Veterans Administration Department of Surgery. (1)
- The addition of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) to conventional chemotherapy significantly improved the outcomes of treatment in 25 women with “rapidly progressing” breast cancer. The authors of the study state that DHA appears to accomplish this by sensitizing tumors to the chemotherapy. Another positive finding was that the fish oil did not cause any additional adverse effects. (2)
- A new German trial determined that 1.5 grams/day of “marine phospholipids” consisting of DHA and EPA can promote a weight stabilizing effect in frail patients with advanced cancer. The term “marine phospholipid” refers to fish oil that is encapsulated in a sort of lecithin-type carrier or escort (a “liposome”) which allows for better absorption and retention in the body. Krill oil is one example of a naturally occurring, phospholipid-rich source of DHA and EPA. (3)
- A presentation in the November 2009 edition of Obesity Reviews concluded that the “omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, can protect against the development of obesity in animals” and “reduce body fat in humans”. This group of Australian researchers suggests that these effects may be due to appetite suppression, fat cell destruction (adipocyte apoptosis) and genetic changes in fatty tissue which could discourage “fat deposition”. (4)
- A recent trial in the British Journal of Nutrition examined the omega-3 fatty acid levels of 124 adults of varying weights – 21 healthy volunteers, 63 obese, and 40 overweight. It was noted that the obese participants had significantly smaller amounts of omega-3’s in their systems. The authors also reported that higher levels of omega-3s were associated with a healthier body mass index, hip circumference and waste circumference. The conclusion of the study states: “Our findings suggest that n-3 PUFA may play an important role in weight status and abdominal obesity”. (5)
- A combination of fish oil and olive oil might increase the “fat burning” (fat oxidation) potential of exercise. These effects were noted in a controlled experiment which involved 16 healthy, but sedentary men who engaged in a 10 day diet and exercise program. (6)
- 38 dogs with osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to one of two diets: a) a commercial dog food diet or b) a dog food enriched with 3.5% fish oil for 90 days. Several key benefits were noted in the dogs receiving the omega-3 dog food: an improvement in “peak vertical force” and weight bearing, and a decline in lameness. (7)
- A separate experiment published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association tested the effect of a dog food that was high in fish oil (omega-3 fats) and low in omega-6 fatty acids in a larger group of osteoarthritic dogs (127 in total). Half of the canines were fed a conventional dog food and the remainder received the experimental food for 6 months. Symptomatic changes were noted by the pet owners and via blood testing and medical exams. An increase in plasma omega-3’s and a reduction in omega-6 fatty acids were noted in the experimental group. The owners of the dogs receiving fish oil reported greater displays of strength, as assessed by “rise from a resting position and play” and improvements in walking ability. (8)
- New evidence contained in the February 2010 issue of Biochemical Pharmacology finds that a combination of curcumin, an extract from turmeric, and fish oil may provide a potent and synergistic anti-inflammatory punch. Even “very low dosages” of curcumin and DHA/EPA were capable of suppressing a variety of inflammatory markers in a laboratory setting. There were also signs of antioxidant activity, most likely due to the inclusion of curcumin. Both of these substances are well known to bring about anti-inflammatory effects. What’s new here is the possibility of an additive effect when both substances are taken together. (9)
Numerous studies attest to the fact that fish oil can be used as natural therapeutic aid for those with asthma. But a new experiment adds another wrinkle to the use of fatty acids in this condition – the addition of a rare and unique omega-6 fatty acid known as GLA (gamma-linolenic acid). The current experiment involved 21 asthmatic adults who either took a “medical food emulsion” containing DHA (fish oil) and GLA or a “placebo emulsion” for 4 weeks. All of the volunteers continued to take their normal medication and were subjected to a variety of tests prior to and post study. The patients receiving the DHA + GLA emulsion tolerated it well and exhibited no safety concerns. Those using the medicinal fatty acids reported improvements in quality of life and demonstrated changes in “asthma management as evidenced by reduced asthma symptoms”. (10,11,12)
Combining fatty acids is a common practice among nutritional supplement manufacturers. It now appears that this practice may be more than just a matter or convenience or skillful marketing. Much like the case of asthma, it’s long been known that fish consumption affords benefits in relation to ocular health. In fact, a recent 12 year population study found that people who consumed the largest amounts of omega-3’s were approximately 30% less likely to develop common eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Now, two recent animal studies may offer a new method for enhancing the benefits of fish oil with regard to eye protection. One experiment found that adding GLA to fish oil could more effectively reduce intraocular pressure than just using GLA or fish oil alone. This combination of fatty acids resulted in the preservation of “retinal cell structure” in a group of mice with glaucoma. The addition of GLA to fish oil was also shown to increase the amount of fish oil (DHA) that is capable of reaching the retina in a separate French study from May 2009. This may very well be the primary mechanism by which GLA synergistically supports eye health. (13,14,15)
Most of the news you’re likely to hear about fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids will probably be in reference to cardiovascular disease. But there’s really so much more to DHA and EPA than just promoting a healthy heart. Don’t get me wrong, that alone is a very important role that fish oil can play in modern medicine. Still, it would be shame to neglect the lesser known attributes of this stellar food/supplement. Finally, I’ll leave you with a hint at what the future might bring: omega-3 supplements derived from squid! Squid extracts are desirable because they’re a natural “by product” of calamari ring production. Squid are plentiful in nature. They have a brief life cycle and can be harvested in a relatively gentle manner, without negatively impacting the sea floor. Perhaps best of all, they naturally contain high quantities of DHA. So the next time you go shopping for fish oil, don’t be too surprised if you happen upon a few bottles of squid oil next to it. (16)
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Tags: Arthritis, Breast Cancer, Fish Oil
Posted in Bone and Joint Health, Diet and Weight Loss, Nutritional Supplements