The benefits of Omega 3 are not only wide-ranging, but are demonstrated by multiple clinical studies indicating omega-3's:
Reduce Allergies: Increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help resolve some or all of the symptoms of many types of allergies. The symptoms due to inflammation can include itching, hives, and rashes, hay fever, asthma, food sensitivities, eczema, and sinus infections. You need to be patient because it may take some time. But if you combine a natural anti-inflammatory with dietary and lifestyle changes, you will see results.
It is important to note that while omega-3 fatty acids trigger the release of anti-inflammatory molecules, excess omega-6 fatty acids relative to the omega-3 intake can do the opposite by triggering the release of inflammatory chemicals. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 ranges from 4:1 to 1:1. Yet the typical American diet has a ratio of about 10:1. It is the imbalance which can be pro-inflammatory. Excess omega-6 is obtained from a diet full of processed foods, vegetable oils, meats and dairy. Omega-6 fatty acids, such as borage oil, evening primrose oil, and black currant seed oil have many benefits to be addressed in another newsletter. It is usually not wise to supplement the omega-6 EFA's without first supplementing at least twice as much of the omega-3's. So for help in relieving conditions caused by inflammation, you must increase your omega-3 intake and decrease your omega-6 intake.
Provide freedom from pain and inflammation: Allergies are only one of the conditions basically caused or made worse by chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is involved in any condition ending in “itis”, such as arthritis, prostatitis, and cystitis, skin diseases, heart disease, immune system dysfunction, depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, digestive disorders and many other health conditions. Inflammation even plays a role in cancer formation and progression.
The EPA & DHA fish oil fatty acids, regulate your inflammatory response by reducing the amount of compounds causing pain and inflammation. Rising blood levels of omega 3’s decrease the pro-inflammatory chemicals, leukotriene B4, TNF alpha, Il-8, and thromboxane B2.
The Clinical Journal of Pain, Feb. 2010 reported on research on chronic pain. Five patients suffering significant neuropathy (nerve) pain and diagnoses of fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, cervical radiculopathy, burn injury, and thoracic outlet syndrome responded to treatment with omega-3's. They were given 2400-7200 mg daily EPA-DHA daily. They were evaluated by pre and post treatment pain surveys, objective clinical tools, and EMG nerve conduction studies. All had clinically significant pain reduction and improved functioning up to as much as 19 months after treatment began. No serious adverse effects were noted.
Reduce the production of cytokines: Atherosclerosis is partially caused by an inflammatory response triggered by chemicals in the body called cytokines. Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty material collects along the walls of arteries. This fatty material thickens, hardens (forms calcium deposits), and may eventually block the arteries. The inflammation furthers this process.
Play an important role in the production of Prostaglandin (a powerful hormone-like substances): Prostaglandins are important to many physiological functions in the body. These include kidneys & gastrointestinal functions, blood pressure, blood clotting, and nerve transmission.
Improve Cardiovascular Health: EPA and DHA in fish oil have been demonstrated to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by helping to lower cholesterol, triglycerides, LDLs and blood pressure, while at the same time increasing good HDL cholesterol. Fish Oil fatty acids also helps to prevent heart attack & stroke by decreasing blood platelet aggregation (clumping) and breaking up clots before they cause any damage.
The lining of the arteries is made up of endothelial cells. Omega-3's decrease production of a platelet derived growth factor produced by endothelial cells. This inhibits thickening and therefore narrowing of the arteries.
Endothelial cells also produce nitric oxide which causes the arteries to relax & dilate. Omega 3’s increase the activity of endothelium-derived nitric acid.
The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish a week for healthy persons and one serving per day of fish or a fish oil supplement containing at least 900 mg of fish oil for persons with heart disease. I recommend at least 1 gram twice daily.
Improves Mood: Persons suffering from mood disorders such as depression benefit from fish oil supplementation and Omega 3. Studies have shown depressed people have reduced RBC membrane or serum DHA and EPA.
Researchers at the University of Sheffield and many other studies found that fish oil supplements alleviated the symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder and psychosis. Dosages needed for psychiatric conditions may be up to 9 grams daily.
In a study conducted in Norway involving nearly 22,000 participants it was revealed that those who regularly took cod liver oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, were about 30% less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who did not. The longer the participants took cod liver oil, the less likely they were to have high levels of depression.
The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland studied the effect of supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid along with standard psychiatric care on 49 patients with repeated episodes of harming themselves. The patients were randomly assigned to receive 1200 mg EPA plus 900 mg DHA, or placebo, for 12 weeks.
After the 12 weeks, the group receiving omega-3 fatty acids showed significantly greater improvements in scores for depression, suicide and daily stress than the group receiving the placebo.
Additional studies have found that people taking antidepressant medications and still suffering from depression, may have reduced intensity of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and sexual dysfunction when supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids.
A review of 35 randomized controlled trials on omega-3 fatty acids and depression revealed the more severe the depression, the more likely omega-3's will help to improve mood. They found the EPA component to be more effective with depression than the DHA component.
Improve Memory and Brain Function: Omega 3 fatty acids comprise 8% of the average human brain. A recent study found that ageing people who consumed more omega-3's had increased gray matter brain volume. The function of gray matter is to route both sensory and motor stimuli through connecting neurons to create a response to the stimuli through a chemical synapse.
Omega-3's are also believed to help fortify the myelin sheaths, to help the brain repair damage by promoting neuronal growth, to modulate dopaminergic neurotransmission in certain areas of the brain, and to impact signal transduction inhibition in the brain.
DHA and fish oil have been proven to improve memory, recall, reasoning, focus, the ability to learn, and to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Additional research has shown that mothers taking supplemental DHA while pregnant may increase the IQ of their babies. Another study revealed children of mothers who consumed the least omega-3 were 48% more likely to score in the lowest 25% on IQ tests.
Studies have also shown fish oil to be very effective in the treatment of ADD, ADHD, development coordination disorders, dyslexia, dyspraxia, anxiety, aggression, compulsive disorders and schizophrenia.
In a randomized controlled trial 92 children with ADHD were given EPA for 15 weeks. Opposition, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness improved.
Compared to a placebo in a control group autistic children with severe behaviour problems were significantly improved with 840mg EPA daily and 700mg DHA.
Double blind studies have shown “medium to strong treatment effects of omega 3 fatty acids on symptoms of ADHD” after taking 1 gram daily for 3-6 months.
Reduce the Symptoms of PMS: Omega-3 is converted into 'prostaglandins type-3' -components that control contractions of the uterus. Omega 3s also seem to relieve menstrual cramps by affecting the metabolism of prostaglandins (natural substances which seem to play a central role in menstrual discomfort)
This was suggested by 2 recent studies:
Promote Eye Health: Consuming high quantities of omega 3 fish oil appears to lower the risk of developing both dry eye & macular degeneration, an increasing common eye disease in people over 50. Many doctors recommend fish oil for general eye health as well.
A recent cross sectional study of 2520 randomly selected 65-84 year old subjects indicated those eating fish & shellfish high in omega-3 fatty acids received some protection against Advanced Age Related Macular degeneration (AMD).
Help maintain normal weight: Omega-3’s stimulate the secretion of the hormone leptin, which improves the body’s response to insulin, & helps regulate food intake, metabolism & body weight.
May help reduce the risk of breast cancer in older women: A new study concluded that older women might be able to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by taking daily fish oil supplements.
Emily White, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and her colleagues conducted this study. They recruited more than 35,000 postmenopausal women with no history of breast cancer, and had them complete a dietary questionnaire regarding their intake of non-vitamin, non-mineral specialty supplements.
While monitoring the participants for 6 years, the researchers found that a total of 880 women had developed breast cancer. Based on the answers given on the dietary questionnaires, it was discovered that women who routinely took fish oil supplements had a 32% reduced risk of developing invasive ductal breast cancer, the most common form of the disease.
White and her colleagues note that the findings need to be replicated in a randomized trial to confirm the link between fish oil supplements and a reduction in breast cancer risk.
The results of the study "reinforce something that most of us feel in our hearts but are struggling to prove," David Pearlstone, chief of the division of breast surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, told CNN.com. "Fish oil probably is really good for you in a lot of ways, but the data has been [slow] in coming."
Effect cell growth: Research has shown omega-3 fatty acids effect cell growth by activating the enzyme sphingomyelinase that then generates the release of ceramide. Ceramide is a compound that induces the expression of the human tumor suppressor gene p21, which eventually causes tumor cell death.
The activation of a single gene, p21, appears to be involved in the pathogenesis of not only cancer but also several age-related diseases, including arthritis, atherosclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. This was reported in the April 11th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In recent experiments, mice were fed diets rich in either omega-3(fish oil) or omega-6(corn oil) then implanted with breast cancer cells. After 3 weeks the mice on the omega-3 rich diet had significantly lower tumor size & weight. Lab cultures showed cells treated with DHA or EPA had an increase of 30-40% of sphingomyelinase activity & breast cancer cell growth decreased by 20-25%.
May help decrease rectal polyps: This study involved patients with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). A double-blind randomized placebo controlled trial of 2 grams daily of EPA-FFA's for 6 months produced a 22% decrease in polyp number & a 30% decrease in polyp size.
The EPA was given twice daily with food. The EPA was used in the free fatty form not a variable mix of omega-3”s. The preparation was 99% pure EPA with no DHA.
Mark Hull M.D., PhD, gastroenterologist pursued the study on the preface “ It is known that intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) seems to be protective against colorectal cancer.”
May Help With Fertility: In a study, proven fertile men had higher blood and sperm levels of omega-3's compared with infertile men. The results suggested further research be perofrmed to assess possible benefits of omega-3 FA's in treating idiopathic infertility in men.
May Help withAbsorption in those with Malabsorption Disorders: The Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K were absorbed better when given together with omega-3 fatty acids than when given alone in those with malabsorption from gastrointestinal disease.
Improve Skin and Hair Health: Fish oil helps protect the skin against damage from UV exposure, helps to prevent wrinkles, and delays the aging process of the skin. Omega 3 is also known to play a critical role in regulating cellular function and maintaining elasticity and suppleness of the skin.
This is only the beginning of the many benefits of omega 3 fish oil. Research is still being conducted to learn more about this essential oil.
In a previous newsletter I mentioned the availability of a test you can do at home to measure your omega-3 levels. If you are at risk for any of the conditions associated with low omega-3, I suggest you take this test.
When you supplement fish oil, it is critical you use a quality product from a reputable company who gets purity assays done on their fish oil. This is because some fish oils may be contaminated with mercury, dioxins, and PCB's. There have been lawsuits against fish oil manufactures who produced contaminated products.
The following are excellent sources of Omega-3: