Proven Advantages of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have received quite a bit of attention recently, especially since the FDA has now allowed a heart healthy claim to be printed on products containing omega-3’s. Omega-3 supplements are mostly derived from coldwater species of fish like salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel; as well as from a few vegetarian sources, such as flaxseed oil.
The following is a consolidated rundown of solid scientific research showing the benefits that have been associated with the consumption of omega-3’s.
There is so much research supporting supplementation with omega-3’s that clearly shows they reduce risk factors for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), as well as slowing the progression of the disease itself. As a matter of fact, the Physicians Health Study (22, 071 doctors) suggests the proper fish oils can reduce a man’s risk of dying from a heart attack by 80%. Likewise, the Nurses Study (84,688 female nurses), found omega-3’s can cut a woman’s risk of death by heart attack by 33%.
How do these omega-3’s work? Most research shows the mechanisms by which omega-3’s work is by affecting cholesterol. Research has shown supplementation with omega-3’s lowers total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, while increasing HDL (good cholesterol).
Also in the realm of cardiovascular health is the impact of omega-3’s on high blood pressure. According to a review of 31 studies, the omega-3’s found in fish oil effectively lower blood pressure. Very high doses were needed to show results.
Finally, omega-3’s have been studied in the treatment of angina. Some research indicates that taking omega-3 supplements three times per day has reduced chest pain as well as the need for nitroglycerin ( a common prescription medicine used to treat angina).
Omega-3’s have anti-inflammatory benefits. This has been scientifically demonstrated through a series of complex reactions that occur during the process of inflammation. Generally, for inflammatory conditions, one to two capsules daily appears to lessen the inflammatory response.
Well-controlled clinical studies have clearly demonstrated consumption of omega-3’s result in improvements in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sufferers. Studies have even shown that the consumption of omega-3’s was associated with a decrease in long-term requirements for the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Furthermore, review of these studies concluded these natural substances helped alleviate the symptoms of RA.
Some of the same inflammatory mechanisms previously described hold true for the inflammatory process involved with asthma. Studies demonstrate omega-3’s significantly decreased the bronchial hyper-reactivity in patients suffering form seasonal asthma due to airborne allergens.
For many of
the same reasons, experts believe the treatment with omega-3’s is
effective for those suffering from inflammatory bowel conditions.
Patients with colitis showed significant improvements and were able
to reduce or eliminate their use of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Research has also shown many patients with Crohn’s disease have
significantly lower levels of omega-3’s. Animal studies show that
supplementation with omega-3’s markedly reduces their bowel lesions
and improves their conditions.
Applying the same logic, researchers have shown some success with alleviating the symptoms of those suffering from lupus. This requires quite high doses of omega-3 capsules (15-18 per day). People wishing to take this amount should consult with their nutritionally educated and oriented physician.
Omega-3’s have benefits in other health conditions as well. Research shows omega-3’s may reduce the symptoms of migraine headaches. Other studies have shown that supplementing with omega-3’s improved the skin lesions of psoriasis after two to three months. It has also been noted that applying the fish oil directly to the psoriatic lesions twice daily resulted in improvement after seven weeks.*
With the FDA’s recent announcement concerning the heart healthy health claims now o.k. to use on products containing certain amounts of omega-3’s; the interest has skyrocketed. As a matter of fact, we were unable to get our raw salmon oil for a time; it was sold out from our supplier, resulting in a month-long back order on our Something Smells Fishy. With this increased interest in omega-3 consumption, we found it necessary to address our vegetarian clients; therefore the introduction of our Super Flaxseed Plus Greens formula, which has shown to be a huge success.
After reading about all of the research, it is apparent that omega-3’s are an important part of our diet and something we all need to make an effort to consume enough of.
*This information was published in the HSR – Health Supplement Retailer, November 2004.