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Omega-3 Research


Omega-3’s Exhibit Cardioprotective Effects

In a pivotal study regarding the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil and heart health, Italian researchers investigated the effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids on survivors of myocardial infarction over a 3 ½ year period. Over eleven thousand participants were randomly assigned either supplements of Vitamin E, Omega-3’s or both, or no supplements whatsoever.

The group receiving Omega-3’s alone experienced significantly lower mortality rates within the first three months of the study. Not only was the risk of sudden death notably reduced at four months, the fish oil subset enjoyed significantly reduced rates of all causes of death, as well as non-fatal myocardial infarction and non-fatal stroke. Overall, treatment with fish oil supplements yielded lower rates of sudden cardiac death (by 45%) and improved all-cause mortality (by 20%).

The researchers noted that the effects attributable to the fish oil supplements support the postulation that Omega-3’s have an anti-arrhythmic effect on the heart, consistent with prior experimental studies. The study also noted that treatment with Vitamin E alone had no statistically-valid beneficial effect.

“Early Protection Against Sudden Death by n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids After Myocardial Infarction: Time-Course Analysis of the Results of the Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto Miocardico (GISSI)-Prevenzione”. Circulation; 2002; 105;1897-1903.


Fish Oil Part of Regimen to Protect Against Heart Disease

In the first large-scale study of its kind, researchers from the Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan investigated the health effects of daily Omega-3 supplements in combination with a drug commonly prescribed for those at-risk for heart attacks, angina and other coronary events.

Patients were all identified as having higher than average levels of cholesterol. They were divided into two groups: a main group that included nearly 15,000 participants with no prior history of coronary artery disease, and a secondary group with over 3,600 subjects with a prior history of coronary artery disease. Some of each group were given highly-purified fish oil supplements in addition to statins (enzyme blockers that lower cholesterol levels in the blood by reducing the production of cholesterol by the liver), while others were given only the prescription drug.

Over the course of the nearly five-year study, there was a significant difference between those receiving the fish oil supplements and those who did not. While both therapies proved effective in reducing levels of cholesterol, participants taking the fish oil supplements and statins had a 19% reduction in risk for heart illness. The research also noted that a similar, preventative benefit from daily fish oil supplementation that may convey to those not currently deemed at-risk for heart problems.

“Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid on cardiovascular events in Japanese patients with hypercholesterolemia: rationale, design, and baseline characteristics of the Japan EPA Lipid Intervention Study (JELIS).” American Heart Journal. 2003 Oct;146(4):613-20.


Taking Fish Oil Supplements May Prevent Sudden Death by Cardiac Arrest

In a recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, fish oil supplements were found to be effective in preventing sudden cardiac death.

The study measured the possible outcomes of using three variables with live-saving potential in a simulated town of 100,000 subjects aged between 30 - 84: (1) portable defibrillators (AED’s), devices used to shock the heart during cardiac arrest, placed in every home and public area in a medium-sized town, (2) the implantation of cardioverter defibrillators (ICD’s) in candidates exhibiting symptoms necessitating such a procedure (about half of those who die from cardiac arrest have no symptoms prior to the event), and (3) the preventative use of fish oil dietary supplements.

The use of fish oil supplements to boost levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the adult population resulted in a 6.4% reduction in death – 58 lives per year. In fact, the preventative use of supplements proved eight times more effective than distributing AED’s and two times more effective than the surgically placed ICD’s.

Although the study was computer-simulated (thereby avoiding the prohibitive costs associated with providing and implanting the two electronic devices used as variables), it utilized data from two previously conducted, large-scale studies of actual participants.

The study clearly suggests that by supplementing diets with Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, those who appear healthy, but are at-risk for future cardiac arrhythmias or cardiac arrest, have a better chance for survival than those who do not.

“Preventing Sudden Death with n-3 (Omega-3) Fatty Acids and Defibrillators.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2006 Oct;31(4):316.


The Omega-3 Index and Coronary Heart Disease

Low levels of Omega-3’s are implicated in numerous illnesses and are considered a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease. A study appearing in Preventive Medicine builds upon the broad base of studies supporting the benefit of dietary fish oil supplementation.

Researchers used clinical and laboratory experiments to measure of the composition of fatty acids in red blood cells to determine the Omega-3 Index, an associated risk factor index for illnesses associated with coronary heart disease. An index measure of 8% or greater is associated with better heart outcomes, while a risk index of 4% or less seems to indicate susceptibility to heart illnesses. Those who consume fish and fish oil supplements are able to raise their index, decreasing the likelihood of negative cardiac events.

This new risk index appears to be a useful predictor of future heart problems – especially for sudden cardiac death – and one that could be used easily by medical practitioners with significant usefulness.

“The Omega-3 Index: a new risk factor for death from coronary heart disease?“ Preventative Medicine. 2004 Jul;39(1):212-20.


Omega-3’s Help to Preserve Cognitive Functioning

In a study featured in Neurology, 1,613 subjects were examined between the ages of 45 and 70, testing the correlation between Omega-3 consumption and the preservation of cognitive abilities. Mental functioning was gauged on multiple measures by researchers (memory, psychomotor speed, higher-level information processing and overall cognition), and participants completed a food consumption questionnaire to record their eating patterns, especially as their diets related to intake of fatty fish.

Consumption of long-chain polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish was positively associated with a reduced risk of mental impairment, both on measures of overall cognitive function and psychomotor speed. Researchers also noted a significant correlation between higher consumption rates of cholesterol (saturated fats) and an increased risk of impaired memory and cognitive flexibility.

The researchers concluded that Omega-3’s may benefit cognitive performance due to their anti-inflammatory properties. The researchers further speculate that the diminished cognitive performance associated with lower intake of Omega-3’s may be a predictor of Alzheimer’s Disease later in life.

“Dietary intake of fatty acids and fish in relation to cognitive performance at middle age.” Neurology. 2004 Jan 27;62(2):275-80.


Eating Fish Lowers the Risk of Dementia

French researchers conducted an extensive, seven-year study to investigate correlations between consumption of fish (high in polyunsaturated fatty acids) or meat (high in saturated fatty acids) and the risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease. Subjects, who were aged at least 68 with no symptoms of dementia, recorded their consumption rates of these items. Researchers collected data at two, five and seven years following the start of the study.

Over the entire period in question, subjects who ate fish once per week or more had dramatically lower incidences of cognitive decline. Researchers speculated that in addition to providing vascular protection, the essential fatty acids (Omega-3’s) found in fish might be responsible for diminishing inflammation of brain tissue. They further hypothesized that Omega-3’s may play an important part in the development of the brain and the regeneration of nerve cells.

“Fish, meat, and risk of dementia: cohort study.” British Medical Journal, 2002; 325; 932-933.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Positively Impact Mental Health

Research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine suggests a significant correlation between levels of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and positive mental health.

The study included 106 healthy participants determined to be free of major depression or any other diagnosed mood disorders. Those who had the lowest levels of Omega-3’s were found to score higher on psychological evaluations for negative outlooks, symptoms of mild or moderate depression, and impulsivity. Impulsivity, in its more extreme form, is commonly known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Conversely, those with higher levels of Omega-3’s were found to have a more positive outlook and to be more agreeable, based upon the results of standardized tests.

While evidence from numerous prior studies has suggested a link between deficiencies in Omega-3’s and a number of serious psychological conditions (including, but not limited to, major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD and substance abuse), the results of this study seem to indicate that increasing intake of these fatty acids could prove beneficial to everyone’s mental health.

Plasma fatty acids are associated with normative variation in mood, personality and behavior. Abstract #1411. Presented at the 64th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society, Denver, CO, March 1-4, 2006.



Fish Consumption and Depression

Dr. Joseph Hibbeln of the National Institutes of Health was quoted in a New York Times article as saying, “In the last century, [Western] diets have radically changed and we eat grossly fewer omega-3 fatty acids now. We also know that rates of depression have radically increased by perhaps a hundred-fold." Links between fish consumption and neurological health may be supported by the results of global studies, which suggest "rates of major depression are markedly different across countries, depending upon how much fish is consumed in those countries."

Hibbeln, J.R.. "Fish consumption and major depression." The Lancet, 1998; 351: 1213.

Hibbeln, J.R.. "Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in depression and related conditions, in Phospholipid Spectrum Disorder." (Lancashire, England: Marius Press, 1999), pp. 195-210.



Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Mood Balance

According to a landmark study at Harvard Medical School conducted by Andrew L. Stoll, M.D. and other researchers on "Omega-3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder...", omega-3 fatty acids improved the short-term course of illness in a preliminary, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of patients with bipolar disorder. This study was scheduled to last for nine months; however it was stopped after four months because of the outstanding results. Dr. Stolls studies of omega-3 fatty acids suggest that natural sources of omega-3’s (especially fish oil) may help bring mood into balance.

Stoll, Andrew L., et al. “Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder.” Archives of General Psychiatry 56:407-12 (1999).


Effects Of High-Dose Fish Oil On Rheumatoid Arthritis

A study conducted at the Albany Medical College on 66 rheumatoid arthritis patients concluded that the dietary supplementation of fish oil improved the symptoms of this disease. In addition, this study found that some patients were able to discontinue their NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) without experiencing an increase in symptom flare-ups.

Kremer JM, Lawrence DA, et al. Effects of high-dose fish oil on rheumatoid arthritis after stopping NSAIDs: Clinical and immune correlates. Arthritis Rheum. 1995 Aug;38(8):1107–14


Omega-3’s from Fish Oil May Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

According to an article in “Arthritis Today,” a magazine offered by the Arthritis Foundation, there is strong evidence that fish oil supplements with omega-3 fatty acids may ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, help prevent Raynaud’s syndrome spasms and possibly may relieve some lupus symptoms. The article suggests that the American diet is overwhelmed by omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable and cooking oils used in processed food and we are likely getting too little omega-3 fatty acids and others that help reduce inflammation and improve circulation.

Horstman, J. "Medical Oils." July-August 1999. Arthritis Foundation, P.O. Box 7669, Atlanta, GA 30357-0669. www.arthritis.org.


Fish, Veggies & Fruit Protect Against Breast Cancer

According to a study conducted at the Division of Epidemiology and Prevention, Aichi Cancer Center Research Institute in Nagoya, Japan, the traditional dietary habits of the women in this country may be responsible for their relatively low breast cancer rates. Researchers noted that in particular, “The protective effects of the Japanese diet were more prominent among postmenopausal than premenopausal women.”

Hirose K, Takezaki T, Hamajima N, Miura S, Tajima K. Dietary factors protective against breast cancer in Japanese premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Int J Cancer. 2003 Nov 1;107(2):276-82.



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