Singing the Praises of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 = alpha medicine
One more feather in a cure-all's cap
For years, you've heard me singing the praises of Omega-3 fatty acids.
In various studies, they've been shown time and again to support optimum heart health, enhance brain function, slow dementia, and even help unruly children to be better behaved (sparing some from being hooked on Ritalin, I can only hope). In my opinion, Omega-3s from dietary fish, grass-fed red meats, and nuts are as close to a natural "cure-all" as anything on Earth
And now, some Japanese research reveals yet another common affliction that Omega-3s helps to combat: COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). COPD is the 5th leading cause of death on Earth. It causes inflammation of airways in the lung, excessive mucous production, and obstructive fibrosis. There is no cure. But now, it seems, there's at least some hope.
The 2-year study, published in a recent issue of the Chest medical journal, divided COPD sufferers into 2 groups. One group was fed a diet rich in Omega-3s polyunsaturated fatty acids, the other a "normal" diet (what defined normal I could not deduce from the study's summary)
At the 15-month point, the prevalence of pulmonary inflammation markers were significantly lower among the Omega-3 group than in the "control" group that ate normally. Also, shortness of breath and capacity for exercise also showed marked improvement among the Omega-3 eaters.
The study didn't pinpoint exactly WHY these positive effects manifested themselves in the Omega-3 group, but theories posited by the study's authors propose a variety of reasons - from enhancing gene expression and cellular "signaling" to the repression of inflammation-causing cytokines.
Whatever the actual, biological reasons are behind Omega-3s positive effects on COPD, this study is just another feather in the cap of one of my favorite "cure-all" nutrients. And it isn't the first time Omega-3s have been shown to help the lungs - previous research from the University of Indiana showed that Omega-3 supplementation helped reduce symptoms of asthma and other forms of bronchial constriction.
But that's not all the good news from the Far East on the Omega-3 front. Keep reading
Something's fishy in the Far East
I've long advocated the daily consumption of Omega-3-rich fish oils for keeping your heart healthy - and why not? It WORKS, as study after study has shown
But the American medical mainstream all but ignores Omega-3s and fish oil. What's their solution for heart health? Statin drugs (and bypass surgery, of course). These drugs (Lipitor, Mevacor, Crestor, etc.) are the most commonly prescribed patent medications on Earth. Chances are that you or someone you know is currently taking one of these right now - they're that common.
Yet lo and behold, it seems that statins alone aren't nearly as effective at preventing heart attacks as statins fortified with ordinary, centuries-used fish oil!
That's the finding of some new Japanese research. The study, unveiled at the American Heart Association's most recent annual meeting, followed over 18,000 patients over more than 4.5 years - and found that those who took daily doses of the same omega-3 fatty acid found in most fish oils along with their prescribed statin drugs enjoyed a 19% reduction in the risk of adverse coronary events than those taking statins alone.
Naturally, the study didn't measure the effects of fish oils alone. I suspect if it did, there would have been a similar effect among those only taking daily fish oil and eschewing the drugs altogether
But hey, it's a small victory, right?
My advice: Take a daily dose of Omega-3-rich fish oil (or an equivalent supplement) each day, no matter what your heart health - but especially if you're taking statin drugs. Previous studies have shown that statins actually leach Omega-3s from your body, so it's extra important to keep these levels up if you're taking these pills.
Better yet, shelve the pills for a few months and see what aggressive fish oil Omega-3 supplementation can do for your cholesterol (not that you should even worry about it until it reaches 300 or more) and heart health. Time and again, research points to it as a miracle rivaling any drug - and with no side effects other than increased energy, sharpened mental acuity, more flexible skin and joints, and a longer life span.
Always dish-y on matters fishy,
William Campbell Douglass II, MD