Friday, September 4, 2009

Are you getting a good balance of EPA & DHA? FDA Recognizes Health Benefits of Omega-3

Adding to what appears to be a growing trend of acknowledging nutritional health benefits, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently announced that it will allow a qualified health claim to appear on the packaging of foods containing the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), nutrients that have been shown effective in reducing heart disease risk and other conditions.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in both men and women in the United States. It is estimated that as many as 500,000 people die from heart disease and conditions related to heart disease each year. By allowing this qualified health claim to appear on foods with EPA and DHA, the FDA is hoping to encourage consumers to make better food and supplement choices.

EPA and DHA are long-chain, polyunsaturated, omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish, such as tuna, cod, sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel, sablefish, bluefish, lake trout, and salmon. These fatty acids make up about 30% of the fats from fish. Eating foods rich in EPA and DHA, and supplementing with these fatty acids, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease. Fatty acids from fish oil can improve the health of the blood vessels, reduce clot formation, lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and prevent dangerous abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
In one study, people whose diets provided about 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day and who took a supplement providing an additional 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day reduced their risk of death from heart disease by 30 to 45%.  The FDA has approved this qualified health claim because it has found the evidence supporting the link between EPA and DHA intake and reduced risk of heart disease to be credible.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor´s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

Omega 3 and its importance within the diet

Everybody knows that Omega 3 fats are important to keep healthy, due to its increasing media coverage in the recent months. But exactly how does it help? And what does it help in particular? We need to first understand what Omega 3 actually is. It is an oil found in cold water fish such as mackerel and salmon. This oil contains two essential fatty acids called EPA and DHA. These two acids are extremely important for the body to stay healthy, but it cannot be produced by the body it has to be obtained through diet.
Unfortunately modern day diets often don’t mean we obtain enough of Omega 3, and therefore many of us can become deficient in this oil. People such as the Eskimos of Greenland had a diet high in Omega 3 fats due to their diet of fish and seal. This effectively showed Omega 3’s effect as the Eskimos suffered far less from cardiovascular diseases compared to the rest of the world.   
Unlike most fats which are bad for your health, scientists are now stating that Omega 3 which is a ‘good’ fat is actually needed for good health! Omega 3 is beneficial to almost every part of your body. Its two acids EPA and DHA are the two ingredients which help to keep the body healthy. They are both polyunsaturated fats which contain double bonds, which play an important role in the body’s functions.
So what parts of the body does Omega 3 actually help with, and how? 
Omega 3 fatty acids have been known to improve brain power, and more recently improve brain power in children. It is believed that the Omega 3 fatty acids make it easier for signals sent from the cells in the brain to pass over to one anther more easily. When these signals are passed over more easily then they are more likely to work efficiently and to their full potential, which then increases brainpower.
Not only can Omega 3 help to increase brain power, but it can also help with treating depression and bipolar disorder. As the brain has many different fatty acids in it, Omega 3 is thought to help maintain some of the acids it needs to stay alert.
Omega 3 has long been promoted for its properties to help the cardiovascular system especially the heart. Omega 3 possesses the ability to lower the triglyceride levels in the blood which have been known to cause blockages and stickiness in the blood causing heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks.
The blood flow can be restored to normal which allows essential nutrients that the heart needs to flow freely in to the heart. Omega 3 can help both people with healthy heart to keep staying healthy, and people who are at risk from cardiovascular diseases.

The Lungs
Omega 3 has shown in some clinical trials to also be effective at helping some conditions of the lungs. Results from various trials have suggested that Omega 3 can help to ease Asthma and some allergy symptoms. It has shown to have some anti-inflammatory properties which are mainly the cause of symptoms in Asthma and other allergies.

The Skin
Omega 3 fatty acids can also be beneficial for the skin. These fatty acids don’t only act as a waterproofing layer for the skin working from the inside out, but they can also help to hydrate the skin and to help ease the skin symptoms which are caused by allergies.
Some studies have suggested that Omega 3 could make the skin look more hydrated and less dull and lifeless. There have also been some trials which have suggested that Omega 3 fatty acids can be useful in helping to treat acne in some people.

Omega 3 fatty acids have also been linked to healthy pregnancies and babies. This is because in trials with pregnant women taking Omega 3 supplements showed that they carried their babies for longer and also had a reduced risk of problems such as any physical and neurological problems, which are linked to premature births. Fish oil is also very important for a child’s brain development, and when taken through pregnancy can give a baby the best start in life.
Fish oils also have the ability to reduce the risk of two pregnancy conditions called, pregnancy-induced hypertension and gestational diabetes. The EPA and DHA found in Omega 3 can help to keep insulin levels, and ‘bad’ eicosanoids levels correct which cause these two conditions.
Omega 3 is probably most noted for its cardiovascular effects and joint effects. Omega 3 has been researched in many clinical trials which have mostly concentrated on its effects in helping to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but it can help other joint problems such as arthritis and osteoarthritis. It helps to improve joint flexibility by lubricating the joints.
The fatty acids in Omega 3 have shown to possess anti-inflammatory qualities, which can help many common joint problems as most of them tend to cause the joints to inflame and become sore. They also help to reduce the enzymes that destroy healthy cartilage in the joints. Omega 3 has also shown to increase calcium levels in the body helping calcium to be absorbed more effectively. This increased absorption of calcium can help to keep the bones strong and healthy.

Omega 3’s ability to help relieve the ‘stickiness’ that can be found in the blood, which not only causes cardiovascular problems but also stops the blood from flowing freely around the body, is one of its most researched properties. It can therefore help circulation problems, allowing the blood to flow to the extremities where it can be blocked from sometimes due to the ‘stickiness’.
Omega 3 not only helps circulation problems but also can help people with no circulation conditions to help keep their circulation healthy and flowing properly.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids Good for Heart Health

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have been widely promoted as a healthier fat option than saturated or trans fats, though a recent report called the benefits of omega-6 fatty acids into question. A report by the American Heart Association appears to put that concern to rest, as a new study suggests that eating omega-6 fatty acids along with making other lifestyle changes may be important for heart health and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Looking at the research on omega-6 fatty acids

Much has been reported about the health benefits of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which together are important for a variety of bodily functions including brain function, cholesterol lowering, and normal growth and development. In this recent report, an American Heart Association advisory board specifically examined research studies evaluating the role of omega-6 fatty acids in coronary heart disease. Looking at the combined results of the studies, the American Heart Association concludes that people who consume 5 to 10% of calorie requirements from omega-6 fatty acids may reduce their risk of coronary heart disease compared with those who consume less omega-6 fatty acids. The beneficial effects were particularly noted in research studies on the most common dietary omega-6 fatty acid known as linoleic acid (LA) which is found in vegetable oils such as corn, safflower and sunflower oil, and in other foods such as nuts and seeds.

The report also addresses concerns from nutritional experts that eating too much omega-6 fatty acids may increase the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association report states that reducing the amount of omega-6 fatty acids from current levels may actually increase and not decrease the risk of coronary heart disease and notes that “The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board, in their ‘Dietary Reference Intake Report for Energy and Macronutrients,’ defines an adequate intake of LA as 17 grams per day for men and 12 grams per day for women (5 to 6% of energy) 19 to 50 years of age, approximately the current median US intake.”

Heart healthy choices

The American Heart Association recommends important lifestyle behaviours to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease such as following a healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains, engaging in moderate exercise 30 minutes a day, and not smoking. As part of a healthy diet, the Association recommends the following for making healthy choices when it comes to dietary fat:
  • Avoid saturated and trans fats which in excess can increase the risk for heart disease and instead replace them with healthy fats such as omega-3, omega-6 and monounsaturated fats, such as olive, avocado, and almond oils. All fats can add excess calories to a diet and should be consumed only in moderation.
  • Eat 5 to 10% of total daily calories from omega-6 fatty acids and keep saturated fat less than 7% of total calories, trans fats less than 1% and limit all fat to 25 to 35% of total calories.
  • Talk with a doctor about your risk for coronary heart disease and recommendations for a healthy dietary pattern.


By Dana Gloger

EATING oily fish can help ensure a long life as it slashes the risk of heart failure by a third, scientists have discovered.
As a result, they say the fatty acid found in fish oil, omega 3, should now be taken daily by everyone in Britain.
Oily fish has long been known to help those with existing heart problems, but just 500mg a day – the equivalent of two three-ounce portions a week – could also cut the risk for healthy people.
The “compelling” new evidence could reduce heart attack deaths in the UK by up to 30 per cent – without a need for extra medication.
Heart disease is still the country’s biggest killer and scientists at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans looked back at 30 years of research.
They say people with existing heart problems should take “at least 800 to 1,000mg” of omega 3 each day – the amount found in three to four 3oz portions of oily fish a week.
Half that amount of fish would provide enough omega 3 for healthy people – the equivalent of one supplement capsule.
Although the substance is considered an “essential fatty acid”, omega 3 is not produced naturally by the body, and therefore it can only be obtained through diet or supplements. The Food Standards Agency recommends mackerel, tuna and herring as the best source of the oil, which according to previous studies can also protect against strokes and cancer.
But it has previously sounded warnings about eating too much oily fish, claiming that it can contain low levels of pollutants that might build up in the body.
Experts say there is no harm in men and most women eating four portions of fish a week, but girls and women who might later have a baby and those who are pregnant or breast-feeding should limit their intake to two portions a week.

Omega-3 may cut hospital admissions for patients with chronic heart failure, study published in Lancet reveals

A single omega-3 fish oil capsule taken daily could help keep some people with heart failure out of hospital, a study released yesterday revealed.
A second trial, however, found that statins - conventional medicines prescribed for many healthy people with high cholesterol at risk of heart disease - have no effect once the arteries have narrowed to the point where heart failure occurs.
Both results were revealed yesterday in Munich at the European Society of Cardiology meeting and published online by the Lancet. Italian researchers investigated the potential of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on patients with chronic heart failure - which occurs when the heart struggles to pump blood around the body because of narrowing arteries.
Professors Luigi Tavazzi and Gianni Tognoni from the ANMCO research centre in Florence found that more patients who were given the omega-3 survived than those who received a placebo. In the omega-3 group, 955 died (27%), whereas among those given a placebo, 1,014 (29%) died. More in the placebo group were also admitted to hospital. Experts said the difference was enough to recommend omega-3 for patients with heart failure.
Statins did not prove useful in a trial where 2,285 patients were given 10mg a day of rosuvastatin while 2,289 received a placebo. The researchers found there was no significant difference between deaths and hospital admissions.

Sarah Boseley, health editor
The Guardian, Monday 1 September 2008