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What Are Fatty Acids?

Fatty acids are the primary constituents of our cells inside and out. We get fatty acids from the foods we eat and the nutritional supplements we take.

Some of you might have heard the term "essential" fatty acid. Omega-3 and Omega- 6, are to date, the two essential fatty acids. Essential means the body doesn't produce them, so we provide them through our diet and supplements.

We are learning, however, that another essential acid probably exists. This is a long-chain fatty acid "cetyl ester" that is also not provided by the body but is essential for our health. In The Freedom Formula, this fatty acid is called the CM Pure.

In the body fatty acids do all of the following:

·                   They play the leading role in the construction and maintenance of all healthy cells, more importantly the cell membrane.

·                   They serve as the cell's gatekeeper: Operating the sodium-potassium, pump that regulates the opening and closing of the metabolic pathways.

·                   Through a chemical transformation, they become prostaglandins that protect the body against unhealthy outside agents.

 

 

Fatty Acid Needs During Pregnancy

The essential fatty acids are those that must be provided in the diet or deficiencies may result. In humans, the only fatty acid recognized as essential in cis-linoleic acid (LA), although there are definite requirements for alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) during fetal development. However, there is much information to suggest that so-called non-essential fatty acids also play a major role in health.

There has been a great momentum to change the emphasis of the North American diet from highly-saturated to highly-polyunsaturated or monounsaturated diets. The effects on women, especially pregnant or lactating women, are only now being explored. Linoleic acid is the fatty acid considered to be essential to the diets of humans. Although alpha-linolenic acid is still not considered an essential nutrient in the United States, it is now a required ingredient in Canadian infant formulas. There is mounting evidence that both linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are important to fetal health, as are their conversion products (eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, arachidonic acid, cervonic acid). These important conversion products are found in breast milk but not in infant formulas.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)…appears to be the most important omega-3 fatty acid when it comes to fetal health.

Research has shown that red blood cells are the chief carriers of DHA from the placenta to the fetus. Maternal consumption of DHA results in DHA accumulation in fetal brain tissue and this increases three to five times in the last trimester and again as much in the first 3 months of life. DHA is also important for normal visual development and studies have shown that premature infants supplemented with fish oils have better vision than non-supplemented infants by four months of age. Studies have also shown that infants that are formula-fed have less DHA in their brains than do those that have been breast-fed.

Human milk is an excellent source of DHA if the mother has eaten adequate amounts of seafood during pregnancy or taken fish-oil supplements. Breast milk contains the fatty acids needed by infants who were not born prematurely. It is now known that premature infants may not be able to make the conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to DHA fast enough to meet the needs of their rapidly growing brain tissue. Pre-term infants fed formulae need supplementation with specific fatty acids, including those found in fish oils <and in high quality Emu Oils> since these are currently not found in infant formulae.

A pregnant women can ensure that her developing fetus obtains adequate amounts of DHA by regularly consuming seafoods, especially fatty fish and shellfish. Poultry, <Emu> and the oils of safflower, flaxseed, soybeans and canola provide a source of alpha-linolenic acid. Supplementation with fish oils is also helpful and should consist of about 250-300 mg DHA two to three times daily, with meals.

Supplementation should only be done under the guidance of a health care provider. Breast feeding of infants is recommended since breast milk contains DHA, EPA, and alpha-linolenic acid. Infant formulas contain only alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and can lead to deficiency states, especially in premature infants.

Cis-linoleic acid (LA) is the only recognized essential fatty acid in humans. Women on vegetarian diets tend to have high levels of cis-linoleic acid in their breast milk. By contrast, women consuming very-low-fat diets may have as little as 1% LA in their milk, a value below the essential fatty acid requirement of the infant.

Recently, there has been some interesting research to suggest that allergies (hay fever) can be diminished in the young if mothers are supplemented with a source of gamma-linolenic acid such as the oils of evening primrose, borage, or blackcurrant. It is believed that supplementation of the mother with these products helps normalize the development of the immune system of the child during a critical period when allergic tendencies first start. Thus, when the mother is allergic herself, supplementation of mother and child with a source of gamma-linolenic acid (e.g., evening primrose oil, borage oil) for the first three months of the infant's life might induce regular immune system development, thereby preventing allergies (hay fever) later in life. The recommended dosage of GLA varies from 30-300 mg daily.

Some preliminary animal studies suggest that fish oil supplementation of the mother also affects the developing immune system of the offspring. Any woman considering fatty acid supplementation should speak with her heatlh care provider.

 

Good Fat and Stroke

Could it be? There's a good fat that can help reduce your risk of stroke? Researchers say "yes!"

The good fat is called alpha-linolenic acid and is found in walnuts, <Emu>, soybean oil and canola oil. Alpha-linolenic acid is a polyunsaturated fat and must be provided in our diet because our body can't produce it. Researchers found that higher levels of this fatty acid was associated with a lower risk of stroke. The scientists studied middle-aged men who had a high risk of stroke or other cardiovascular disease.

Physicians at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and other health experts say people who smoke, have high blood pressure and are overweight, have a higher than average risk of stroke. The fatty acid study concluded that increasing the intake of alpha-linolenic acid lowered the risk of stroke significantly.

Researchers don't know exactly how the fatty acid works to lower the risk. But they do know that a family of fatty acids that come from it, called the omega-3 fatty acids, help reduce clotting in the arteries. Stroke is caused by arterial clots which block blood flow to the brain.

Researchers say the key to stroke prevention is to eat a balanced diet featuring a variety of fruits and vegetables, keep your blood pressure low and avoid smoking.

 

Omega 3 fatty acids: Fact sheet

-Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play a critical role in maintaining good health and ensuring normal development.

-PUFAs are made up of chains of fatty acids that differ in length and the number and position of double bonds. These differences determine PUFAs' biological properties.

-Saturated fatty acids contain no double bonds.

-Monounsaturated fatty acids contain one double bond.

-PUFAs contain more than one double bond.

-Molecules with the first double bond between the third and fourth carbon atom from the methyl end are called omega-3 or n-3 fatty acids. Those with a double bond between the sixth and seventh carbon atoms are known as omega-6 or n-6 fatty acids.

-Fats provide energy, form part of the membrane surrounding each cell and are precursors of prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes.

-We need to obtain two key PUFAs - linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid - from our diets. These are the 'essential' fatty acids that the body converts into other PUFAs.

-Eating 200 to 300g of oily fish weekly or 4-8g of fish oil daily fulfills the dietary requirements. But some patients may need to increase their intake.

-Babies, pre-term infants and pregnant women need LC-PUFAs to ensure normal development of the brain and other nerve tissues.

-People with a personal or family history of heart disease or circulatory problems may also benefit from a higher omega-3 PUFA intake.

-People suffering from rheumatoid arthritis often find increasing consumption of omega-3 PUFA reduces pain and stiffness.

-Omega-3 PUFAs may alleviate infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis and diaper dermatitis (nappy rash), protect smokers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and reduce the likelihood of relapse in Crohn's disease.

-Still to be confirmed roles for PUFAs include treating pre-menstrual syndrome, diebetes, multiple sclerosis, migraine, depression and cancer.

Omega 3 and Asthma

Anyone who struggles with asthma is all too familiar with the breathlessness, wheezing and coughing brought on by an attack. Since these aversive symptoms appear to be caused largely by leukotrienes, the search is on for remedies that will antagonize leukotriene synthesis. Enter another potential use for fish oil - in one study, large doses brought about the formation of less aggravating leukotrienes in asthmatics. But Walter C. Pickett, Ph.D., senior research biochemist at Lederle Laboratories in New York, who was involved in this research, notes that it's not yet known whether the change in leukotrienes helps alleviate asthma symptoms.

One expert speculates that Eskimos may have a low incidence of asthma because they have hefty amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in their diets continuously from birth. Possibly, marine oils have an impact in the early stages of asthma - before asthmatics are sensitized to substances that bring on attacks. Dr. Pickett agrees it's conceivable that eating fair amounts of fish starting early in life may influence the later development of asthma.

Prevention April 1990

 

Omega 3 and Pregnancy

According to Crawford (1995), the first pregnancy-related need for PUFAs (both omega-6 and omega-3) occurs during the three months prior to conception. This critical period for cell commitment and division requires ARA and DHA to facilitate growth and development. It has been suggested that supplementation with fish oil, or increased fish intake, during pregnancy prevents the pregnancy-induced hypertension, prolongs gestation, increases birth weight and reduces the incidence of premature birth (Gerrard, et al, 1991, Olsen et al, 1992). Recent data support the view that the intake of DHA during pregnancy should be in the amount of at least 0,1-0,4g/day (Crawford, 1995).

Fetal stage

DHA is important for optimal nervous system development. During the last trimester of pregnancy, when the fetal demand for neural and vascular growth are greatest, there is an elevated accretion of DHA in the liver and brain of the fetus. A maternal diet high in DHA will greatly enrich the DHA concentration in the blood of the newborn infant. Even levels as low as 0,7g EPA+DHA/day during the period from 25th to 35th week of pregnancy seem to be beneficial (Connor et al, 1995).

DHA levels in maternal plasma are lower in multigravidae compared to primigravidae and the smaller the baby, the lower DHA-level (Al et al, 1995). Consequently, it is therefore especially important for multigravidae to increase the intake of DHA.

Pre-eclampsia

During pregnancy, blood lipids, triglycerides and cholesterol may rise several folds. There may also be an increase in blood pressure. The risk of developing pre-eclampsia and subsequent premature birth is increased if these, otherwise normal changes are increased above certain levels. Severe forms of pregnancy-induced hypertension have been reported to be beneficially modulated by omega-3 fatty acids (Secher et al, 1991). In light of their very strong hypotriglyceridemic and hypotensive effects, omega-3 fatty acids along with other nutritional factors, may be significant for the prevention of pre-eclampsia. The maternal blood pressure responses depend on the ARA/EPA ratio in the vessel wall. Multicenter studies are currently in progress and the first results are expected to be available primo 1997. In the meantime, it would generally seem prudent to recommend an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy. EPA will benefit the mother's heart and circulation, and DHA will definitely be good for the development of fetal brain and nervous system.

 

OMEGA-3 and Disease

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) could help prevent and treat a wide range of diseases, according to studies presented during the International Conference on Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acids in Nutrition and Disease Prevention in Barcelona. And a leading expert predicted that the role of essential fatty acids generally - and omega-3 PUFAs in particular - will grow still further.

"The appreciation that omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in human development, physiology and in the treatment and prevention of certain diseases, is a recent phenomenon," said William Connor, Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland. "The papers presented during this conference shows the diversity of roles that omega-3 fatty acids play in human development and disease."

Dr. Connor reminded delegates that omega-3 fatty acids are critical components in the membranes of nerves, retina and brains. As a result, ensuring an adequate dietary intake of omega-3 PUFAs and other essential fatty acids -which cannot be synthesised by the body - is important. The daily requirement is probably around a teaspoon of essential fatty acids a day.

"The signs of omega-3 deficiency in infancy are subtle," Dr. Connor said. "For example, omega-3 fatty acid deficiency in infants can translate into impaired vision, abnormalities on the electroretinogram - which measures retinal nerve function - and behavioural changes such as polydypsia (excessive thirst), hyperactivity and perhaps less cognitive ability. Some of these changes have been described only in subhuman primates."

Fetuses receive omega-3 fatty acids from the maternal diet and new-borns from human milk. "So it's clearly essential for pregnant and breast feeding women to ensure their dietary intake of omega-3 PUFA is adequate," Dr. Connor added. "For example, the synthesis of docosahexaenoic acid from alpha-linolenic acid is sluggish in new-born babies. As docosahexaenoic acid is critical for neural function, membranes and growth it should likely be included in infant formulas."

Dr. Connor commented that other preventative roles for the omega-3 fatty acids have emerged over the last 20 years. "The list of diseases in which omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil may play a role is so large that cautious skepticism may be warranted," he said. "Nevertheless, the data is fairly convincing. Omega-3 fatty acids seem to reduce certain symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, some skin conditions and cardiovascular diseases ranging from hypertension, through atherosclerosis, to hyperlipidaemia and cardiac arrhythmias. And the list grows longer each year. There are undoubtedly still some interesting discoveries waiting to be made in this very exciting field."

International Conference on Highly unsaturated fatty acids in nutrition and disease prevention - Press Information

 

Omega 3 and Cardiovascular Disorders

Numerous studies show that increased long term intake of marine oils, rich in EPA and DHA, reduces the morbidy and mortality associated with cardiovascular disorders in middle-aged men. Conflicting data exist as to whether it is EPA or DHA, or the combination which is responsible for the various beneficial effects. in any event, it is known that there may be limits to the elongation and desaturation of EPA to DHA, whereas the retroconversion of DHA to EPA occurs.

Harris et al., Grimsgaard et al., 1995 It is generally agreed that omega-3 fatty acids moderate hyperlipidemia, particularly hypertriglyceridemia, very rapidly in a dose dependent manner. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the triglyceride levels in the blood by a reduced synthesis and secretion of VLDL particles from the liver and enhances the in vivo liposysis of the VLDL-particles. An improved balance between LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol is also normally found, whereas the effect on total cholesterol is marginal. A large number of studies report such findings.

Omega-3 fatty acids influence on platelet aggregability at rather low doses (50-350mg), whereas significant effects on blood lipids and blood pressure can be achieved at higher doses (2g/day).

Christensen et al, 1995

Recent data (from a parallel group study) show that 3 g pure DHA (95% DHA, ethyl ester) produce a 30-40% greater reduction in triglyceride levels in plasma than a corresponding amount of EPA (90% EPA, ethyl ester). DHA also seems to have a more marked effect on increasing HDL-cholesterol, whereas EPA was found to slightly decrease both total cholesterol and APO-1 in normal subjects (Grimsgaard et al, 1995). This study suggests that DHA might be more beneficial than EPA in terms of effects on blood lipids. Others have reported that DHA-rich oils (4g/day, 42% DHA) are less active than EPA-rich oils and fish diet on both fasting and postpprandial triglyceride levles.

Agren, 1995

A positive correlation has been observed between supplementation with EPA and DHA (85% ethyl ester) and improvements in blood pressure and heart rate in subjects suffering from mild hypertension. Recently published studies showed that DHA (EE), not EPA (EE), lowered the heart rate in healthy humans.

Bönaa el al, 1995

Even short time supplementation with large amounts (19g/day) of a combination of EPA and DHA (as ethyl esters) has shown to have long-lasting effects on the human platelet aggregation, an effect suggested by inhibition on TXA2/PGH2 receptor by EPA and/or DHA-sensitive mechanisms.

Di Minno et al, 1995

Studies on cardiac arrhythmias do not give any clear evidence on the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids. However, a trend towards reduction in ventricular extracystoles in patients with ventricular tachyarrhythmias has been observed after supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (Christiansen et al, 1995). Animal studies show that DHA may inhibit ventricular tachyarrhytmias more significantly than EPA (Leaf, 1995), and also increases the cardiac contractability.

Grynberg et al, 1995

Recent data also show that DHA has more pronounced inhibitory effect on the expression of cytokines in endothelial cells, which clearly downregulate the inflammatory process and may inhibit the progression of atherosclerosis.

DeCaterina & Libby, 1995

Epidemiological and clinical research have shown that omega-3 fatty acids intervene in the atherosclerotic process at all steps, and that there probably are synergistic effects of EPA and DHA at many levels.

 

Omega 3 and Infants

-DHA is essential for normal eye and brain development An inadequate supply of DHA (in some cases also ARA) during CNS development gives cause for concern because of possible long-term effects on visual and cognitive functions. Some researchers also suggest that DHA deficiencies during this rapid period of development cause irreversible damage to the brain and nerve tissue. Since fetuses and newborns have improper enzyme system to elongate alfa-linolenic acid to DHA, they must rely on the pre-formed DHA in the mothers milk (or alternatively - DHA supplemented milk formula).

Preterm. The intrauterine accretion of DHA (and ARA) is vital for the growth and development of the infant. Preterm infants and babies with intrauterine growth retardation are often born with deficiencies of these fatty acids.

DHA deficiencies have shown to lead to visual dysfunction and suppressed mental and psycomotoric development, whereas it has been suggested that decreased ARA-levels in blood reflect slightly suppressed growth (Carlson et al 1993). There is no doubt that DHA is essential for the preterm baby (1350 ) or even that short term DHA supplementation influences visual acuity at age of 12 months. It has been suggested that DHA supplementation (0,2% DHA) increases the speed of visual processing in preterm infants (Carlson et al 1995). It is currently recommended to fortify preterm formula with DHA and ARA in amounts of: 60-100mg ARA/kg bodyweight/day and 35-75mg DHA/kg bodyweight/day (ISSFAL Board meeting 1994).

 

 

Cod Liver Oil and Arthritis <Emu Oil is Similar*>

Long before it emerged as a possible remedy for heart disease, fish oil was used to treat arthritis. Maurice Stansby, veteran fish-oil researcher and scientific consultant to the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle, uncovered documents indicating that, in the late 1700s, personnel from a hospital in Manchester, England, routinely dosed arthritis patients with cod-liver-oil supplements to help their "squeaky joints." Stansby surmises that the fish-oil tradition was lost to history because it was so unpalatable-the only time patients would take their tonic was when it was forced upon them by attendants. No wonder, when cod-liver oil of the day was extracted from rotten fish livers!

Interests in treating arthritis patients with fish oil was rekindled by the finding that manipulating fatty acids in the diets of arthritic animals was beneficial. A link with fish oil was also suspected because of evidence that leukotrienes and thromboxane (a product of prostaglandins) are involved in the kinds of inflammatory reactions causing the painful symptoms of arthritis. Accordingly, Harvard researchers decided to test out the effects of fish oil in people who have rheumatoid arthritis, a form of arthritis that can be severely disabling. Richard Sperling, M.D., and his coworkers found a lowering of inflammatory biochemical, along with a decrease in joint pain and tenderness, in rheumatoid arthritis patients who took fish-oil supplements. Although the results are considered preliminary since no control group was involved, Dr. Sperling thinks that fish oils have the potential to act as anti-inflammatory drugs.

Support for Dr. Sperling's hunch comes from research conducted at Albany Medical College, in New York. Joel Kremer, M.D., found "modest" improvements in some symptoms of rheumatoid-arthritis patients who were on fish-oil capsules compared to a group of similar patients who did not take the supplements. The problem with this study is that the patients who took the capsules were also on a special diet, making it difficult to know whether fish oil or something about the diet was responsible. In a more recent study, Dr. Kremer placed people with rheumatoid arthritis on fish-oil supplements, but no special diet. Compared to a period of time in which they took a placebo (an inert supplement, often called a "sugar pill"), the fish-oil takers suffered significantly less joint tenderness and reported less fatigue. It's important to note that, although there appeared to be overall improvement in other symptoms of arthritis such as duration of morning stiffness and joint swelling, the effects of fish-oil supplements were not as definite.

Thus, fish oil cannot be viewed as any sort of a panacea for arthritis sufferers. Furthermore, the small amount of research that has been conducted in this area has involved large amounts of fish oil. Dr. Dreamer's patients, for example, took 10 to 15 fish oil capsules a day-surely a pharmaceutical dose. He issues words of caution when it comes to taking fish-oil supplements. But he does recommend that people who have arthritis eat more fish. At the very least a fish-rich diet can help keep weight down-an important move to minimize stress on weight-bearing arthritic joints.

Prevention, April 1990

 

 

Omega 3 & Omega 6 & Cancer

Working on her doctorate, Svanhild Arentz Schønberg at the University of Science and Technology at Trondheim, Norway, has confirmed that poly-unsaturated fatty acids from fish <and Emu> is able to kill cancer-cells, writes the magazine Gemini. These fatty acids are called Omega-3 and Omega-6.

There are also clear indications that these fatty acids can help patients suffering from psoriasis, and it is established knowledge that they greatly reduce the risk of developing heart-diseases.

… Svanhild Arentz Schønberg warns against high intake of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. - A certain dose is good for you, but large doses may turn into a poison for the body, she says.

 

Omega 3 and AIDS

Because omega 3-polyunsaturated acids decrease the production of certain cytokines--proteins which regulate immune response--they may improve conditions associated with AIDS, such as cachexia.1 AIDS patients often exhibit significantly reduced levels of essential and metabolic fatty acids.2 One group of researchers even proposed that a deficiency in gamma-linolenic and/or eicosapentaenoic acids makes an individual more susceptible to develop AIDS. They argued that because these important fatty acids exert anti-viral effects and indirectly modulate immune response, they are potentially important in the treatment and prevention of AIDS.

The Essential and Metabolic Fatty Acids Analysis identifies levels of 43 individual fatty acids and determines 9 crucial fatty acid ratios, establishing a clear and solid foundation for designing and monitoring an effective supplement program.

References

1 Razzini E, Baronzio GF. Omega-3 fatty acids as coadjuvant treatment in AIDS.

Med Hypotheses 1993;41(4):300-305.

2 Begin ME, Manku MS, Horrobin DF. Plasma fatty acid levels in patients with acquired immuned deficiency syndrome and in controls. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1989;37(2):135 7.

3 Begin ME, Das UN. A deficiency in dietary gamma-linolenic and/or eicosapentaenoic acids may determine individual susceptibility to AIDS. Med Hypotheses 1986;21(1):1-8.

 

 

Nutrition News BY HOLLY MCCORD, RD

Omega 3 and Dementia

Boost Your Brain Power With Omega-3s Can one of the omega-3 fats in fish fight Alzheimer's disease? In a study of more than 1,000 people (average age 75), those with high blood levels of an omega-3 called DHA were more than 40% less likely to develop dementia (including Alzheimer's) over the next nine years than people with low DHA levels. One theory why: We know the brain latches onto DHA -- its favorite fat -- to help build membranes around nerve cells; possibly the more DHA, the easier it is to zap messages from cell to cell.

Experts advise eating a weekly serving of fish rich in omega-3s. (A piece of salmon the size of an audiotape will do.) New option: Neuromins, a supplement with 100 milligrams DHA per capsule. One daily dose supplies about as much DHA in a week as you'd get from that one serving of salmon. Bonus for vegetarians: Neuromins is made from tiny sea plants, which is where fish get their omega-3s. It's the first supplement with a nonanimal source of this omega-3. (The other omega-3 in fish is EPA -- which acts as a blood thinner and calms symptoms of inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Fish and fish-oil capsules have both DHA and EPA.)

Prevention Magazine

Omega-3 fatty acids slow heart disease NEW YORK, Apr 05 (Reuters Health) -- Omega-3 fatty acids, as found in fish oils, are "modestly" effective in slowing the progression of fatty buildup in the arteries of patients with heart disease.

 

Is Depression a Dietary Problem?

There are two types of essential fatty acids—omega-3s (linolenic acids) and omega-6s (linoleic acids). Both are necessary for health. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in many vegetable oils, including soybean, safflower, corn, sunflower, flax, and walnut oils . Omega-3 fatty acids occur in flaxseeds, hemp, borage, pumpkinseeds, walnuts, and several cold-water fish. The modern diet has an estimated 14:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, compared to a 6:1 ratio consumed by people on a traditional, pre-industrial diet.

British researchers suspect that a lack of omega-3s may be responsible for some cases of depression. They examined the fatty acid composition of red blood cell membranes in both depressed patients and non-depressed controls. The depressed group had significantly fewer omega-3s, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), than the control group.

The lower level of omega-3s found in the cells of depressed patients may be due to greater oxidative damage of cell membranes, indicating that these people have inadequate antioxidant defenses. Another study found that patients suffering from more severe depression had lower levels of fatty acids and lower dietary intakes of omega-3s than those with milder cases of depression.

Researchers suggest that supplementation with omega-3s might be of therapeutic value for those suffering depression. Based on information in:

Journal of Affective Disorders, 1998, Vol. 48 p. 149

 

Omega 3 and Bones

October 1997

Purdue research shows omega-3s benefit bone

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Add another star to the list of health benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids. Recent Purdue University research shows that they also help bones grow.

"Past research showed that eating more omega-3 fatty acids could decrease coronary heart disease risk and might decrease chances of getting certain cancers," says Purdue food science professor Bruce Watkins, "but our research is the first to suggest that omega-3s improve bone growth."

Watkins spoke Sept. 18 at a National Institutes of Health (NIH) conference on "The Return of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Into the Food Supply." He also co-chaired a session of the conference.

Omega-3 fatty acids are one of two major types of polyunsaturated fatty acids in our diet, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The other type, omega-6 fatty acids, are common in corn, soy and safflower oil. Omega-3s are found in large quantities in fish, soybean oil and canola oil. It's their presence in those foods that has prompted some nutrition experts to recommend that people eat fish once or twice a week to decrease heart disease.

Watkins, who also presented his research this month in Cincinnati at the 19th annual meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, found that bones of animals fed increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids showed improved formation rates and were stronger when compared to bones of animals in a control group. Watkins did studies with both rats and chickens.

Bones grow in response to the actions of muscles, Watkins says. When you use your muscles, they send chemical signals to your bones that tell the bones how to form or re-form.

"But if the right chemicals aren't there, bones may not respond as quickly or as well," he says.

What you eat determines which chemicals are in your body to carry signals from muscle to bone. And one of the chemicals we need is the group of fats called omega-3 fatty acids.

"This is most important for the young, whose bones are growing and changing at a rapid rate," Watkins says. He stresses that young children especially need to eat a variety of fats.

"Right now there are no national recommendations on amounts of omega-3 fatty acids people should include in their diets," Watkins says, "although studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for proper brain and retinal development in infants, that they improve immune functions, they alleviate arthritis symptoms and inflammation, and they lower the risk for cardiovascular disease."

Food industry representatives who attended the NIH conference reported that they have found ways to increase levels of omega-3 fatty acids in eggs, chicken, pork, beef and dairy products by changing the animals' diets, according to Watkins. Omega-3-enriched eggs already are available in Canada, Australia and the southwestern United States.

Source: Bruce Watkins, (765) 494-5802; e-mail, watkins@foodsci.purdue.edu

Writer: Rebecca J. Goetz (765) 494-0461; e-mail rjg@aes.purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail, purduenews@uns.purdue.edu

 

 

Omega 3, Omega 6 and Mental Health

BOSTON, October 30, 1997

New research shows that supplementation of omega~3 and omega~6 fatty acids -- found mostly in seafood, such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and lake trout <AND EMU> -- may help alleviate symptoms of several mental and behavioral disorders and promote neurological development in infants, researchers said in a session (Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Health and Disease, Thursday, October 30) at the 80th Annual Meeting and Exhibition of The American Dietetic Association (ADA), at the Hynes Convention Center (October 27-30).

In a study conducted at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., researchers treated patients suffering from cognitive impairment and schizophrenia with low-dose supplementation of omega~3 fatty acids for six months and found enhanced mental function and orientation ability in these patients. For those with schizophrenia, the supplementation significantly alleviated symptoms, according to researchers.

"Omega~3 fatty acids constitute a major part of brain and nerve lipids. They are vital to the proper function of brain and nerve tissues," said Louise Peck, Ph.D., R.D. (registered dietitian), of Purdue's department of foods and nutrition.

Peck said differences in the prevalence of major depression have been linked to differences in the dietary intake of omega~3 fatty acids in several well-known epidemiological studies. And, Peck said increased risk of depressive and suicidal behaviors are associated with low concentrations of omega~3 fatty acids, or docosahexaenoic (DHA) in blood plasma.

She and fellow researchers studied a population of school-age children in central Indiana and found that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) had significantly lower levels of omega~3 fatty acids in their blood. Long-term effects of omega~3 supplementation on children with ADHD are still being investigated, according to Peck.

Susan Carlson, Ph.D., professor of nursing at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, who has been studying children's neurological development for many years, said trials involving supplementation of omega~6 fatty acids on pre-term and term infants have resulted in enhanced visual function.

"Since omega~6 fatty acids constitute half of neurological fatty acids in the retina and the brain, pre-term babies who are fed formulas miss the opportunity to accumulate omega~6 fatty acids from human milk," Carlson said. "Data from several trials on pre-term and term infants suggest that the higher concentration of omega~6 fatty acids resulted in enhanced infant visual acuity."

She noted that longer and large-scale trials are needed to further confirm the findings of omega~6 fatty acids on children's neurological development, immunity and growth, and to address the issues of safety and efficacy when supplementing infant formulas.

The nearly 70,000-member American Dietetic Association is the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. Based in Chicago, ADA serves the public by promoting optimal nutrition, health and well-being.

 


* Relates to studies done in relation to emu oil alone that are annotated elsewhere.