Entries in Omega-3 Fatty Acids (8)


Mediterranean Diet Helps to Preserve Memory and Cognitive Skills

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- According to a new study, a Mediterranean diet, high in Omega-3s and low in meat and dairy, may help to preserve memory and cognitive ability.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, was the largest study to date on the impact of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Researchers analyzed data collected from over 17,000 participants with an average age of 64 years old. Each participant was given a series of mental tests over a span of four years.

Among healthy subjects, those who adhered closest to the Mediterranean style diet were almost 20 percent less likely to develop issues with their memory or thinking skills.

Researchers say that because there is no treatment for Alzheimer's disease or cognitive decline, a diet that helps to prevent its onset could prove to be of major importance.

Omega-3s are found in most fish, chicken, vegetables and olive oils.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Not Offer Touted Brain Benefits After All

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Despite doctors' advice that omega-3 fatty acids can prevent a decline in cognitive function, a new review of previous studies suggests that taking omega-3 supplements may not offer any brain benefits at all.

Researchers led by Emma Sydenham at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine analyzed data from three separate studies that evaluated the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cognitive function among older people who showed no signs of dementia or other brain dysfunction.

The studies involved a total of 3,536 people and lasted between six and 40 months.

They found that subjects with normal brain function who either supplemented their diet with omega-3 fatty acids -- fats commonly found in fish and plant oils -- either in capsule form or by using supplement-containing margarine spreads, did not perform better on standardized tests than subjects who received a placebo.

"The results of the available studies show no benefit for cognitive function with [omega-3] supplementation among cognitively healthy older people," the authors wrote.  But they did add that researchers need to conduct longer studies to assess whether there are preventive benefits.

But experts not involved in the research review say there is clear evidence of the ability of omega-3s to prevent cognitive decline.

Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, said that the studies the Sydenham team evaluated have major flaws.

"Other studies have found that those who ingest omega-3 fatty acids are at lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease," said Small.

A study published in February found a link between low levels of omega-3s and a more rapid aging of the brain and greater likelihood of losing memory and abstract thinking ability.

The extent of those cognitive benefits remains under debate, however, said Dr. Samuel Gandy, a professor of Alzheimer's disease research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

"There is some evidence that omega-3s may protect from aging-associated memory impairment, but there is no consistent evidence that omega-3s delay or protect from Alzheimer's disease," he said.

While the role of omega-3 fatty acids in protecting the brain still needs to be fleshed out, the researchers who performed the study review stressed that omega-3s may offer other benefits.  While they didn't mention it specifically, helping protect against cardiovascular disease is one of them.  Eating fish, they wrote, "is recommended as part of a healthy diet."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fish Oil Delivers Few Heart Benefits, Study Finds

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Millions of Americans take fish oil supplements, hoping to keep their hearts at their healthiest. But a new study has raised questions about these popular dietary supplements, especially whether they can replace a healthy, balanced diet.

Fish oil, a combination of omega-3 fatty acids, is a centuries-old staple of pharmacy shelves, and scientists have devoted much research to investigating its effects on heart health. So far, the evidence has been inconclusive -- some studies have found fish oil has been major in preventing heart attacks, strokes and sudden cardiac death, while others have found fish oil has no benefits at all.

In the current study, researchers from South Korea analyzed 14 clinical trials involving more than 20,000 patients with cardiovascular disease who had taken fish oil supplements for at least one year and found the supplements did not reduce their risk of having another heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure or any other cardiovascular catastrophe.

The study was published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study confirms what fish oil skeptics have been saying for years.

"The fish oil story is still fishy," said Dr. Robert Eckel, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and past president of the American Heart Association.

Fishy or not, fish oil is one of the most popular dietary supplements sold in the U.S. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, over-the-counter fish oil supplements reeled in $739 million in 2009 alone, according to a report in Forbes magazine. Foods fortified with extra omega-3s, such as margarine and peanut butter, roped in nearly $4 billion for manufacturers in 2010, according to Packaged Facts.

GlaxoSmithKline makes prescription fish oil, Lovaza, intended to treat people with high blood fats, called triglycerides. The prescription form delivers omega-3s at high doses – about 1,000 mg. Over-the-counter fish oil supplements typically contain as little as 300 mg of two omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.

"The question is, what do these relatively small doses of omega-3 fatty acids do? As this study shows they do nothing," Eckel said.

Eckel said that there is no evidence showing that fish oil is harmful.

But others say the possible heart benefits of fish oil should not be so quickly dismissed. In a commentary published with the study, Drs. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said the authors excluded two large studies investigating omega-3 fatty acids that found beneficial effects of fish oil supplements.

Those studies would have swayed the analysis to show a protective effect of fish oil against cardiovascular disease, they wrote, and "the data should not simply be ignored in evaluating overall evidence."

Still, many experts say the best way to get fish oil is just to eat fish. The American Heart Association currently recommends that people get their dose of omega-3 fatty acids from eating two servings of fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, per week. For the fish-averse, a slightly different kind of omega-3 fatty acid can be found in flaxseed, walnuts soybeans and canola oils.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Low Levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Cause Memory Problems

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- We’ve heard about the benefits of eating a diet high in fish and rich in omega-3 fats for our heart and brain health, but how do we know if we are eating enough of these healthy fats?

In a new study, published in Neurology, researchers quantify the amount of omega-3 fat their subjects consumed and correlated this with memory testing and brain MRIs.  The results show that people who had higher blood levels of this brain food scored better on memory tests and their brain MRIs showed healthier tissue.

While more research is needed to tell if omega-3 fats can be used as treatment for people suffering from memory loss and dementia, this study provides further support for the benefits of omega-3 fats in keeping aging brains healthy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Omega-3s Could Reduce Risk of Heart Attack in Stent Patients

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(KRAKOW, Poland) -- When combined with blood-thinning drugs, omega-3 fatty acids could help to cut down the risk of heart attacks in patients with stents implanted in their coronary arteries, according to a new study from Poland.

A stent is a small tube placed in the coronary arteries of heart disease patients to allow for more normal blood and oxygen flow to the heart.  If blood clots form and create blockage at the stent, then the result could be heart attack.

Researchers in the study looked at 54 patients with an average age of 63 who had undergone the stent procedure.  During the weeks after the stent implantation, the patients were taking the standard daily therapy for their condition -- an anti-platelet drug (Plavix) and aspirin.  Twenty-four patients were then given a placebo pill and 30 received an omega-3 pill.  

Researchers found that those taking the omega-3 fatty acids experienced improvements, compared to the placebo group.

"Our results demonstrated improved clot properties and decreased thrombin [clot promoter] formation after treatment with the fish oil capsules," Dr. Grzegorz Gajos of John Paul II Hospital in Krakow, Poland stated in the research report.

The authors of the study noted that their findings may not be applicable to other groups, such as healthy people or those with high-risk coronary artery disease and those not taking blood thinners.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Health Benefits of Fish Vary by Way It's Prepared

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Eating fish has been known to be beneficial to one's health because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  But a new study released Tuesday shows that those benefits depend greatly on how people, particularly women, prepare fish.

After reviewing data from over 90,000 women, aged 50 to 79, who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, researchers at George Washington University found that women who consumed at least five servings of baked or broiled fish per week had a 30-percent lower risk of heart failure compared to women who didn’t eat fish.

However, the researchers found that eating at least one serving of fried fish per week did the opposite -- it increased the risk of heart failure by 48 percent compared to women who did not eat fish.

The authors of the study, published in Circulation: Heart Failure, also found that dark fish such as salmon, which has high levels of omega-3, was healthier for the heart than tuna or white fish such as sole.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Could Heart-Healthy Omega-3s Increase Risk for Prostate Cancer?

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- Researchers are suggesting that high levels of Omega-3s, while great for heart health, may present higher risk for developing prostate cancer.  Additionally, increased levels of unhealthy trans-fatty acids may help to reduce prostate cancer risk.

After a nationwide analysis of more than 3,400 men, investigators found that those with the highest blood percentages of DHA  (an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid commonly found in fish) were more than two-and-a-half times more likely to develop prostate cancer than those with low DHA levels.

The researchers also reported having found a 50-percent lower risk for aggressive prostate cancer in men with high blood levels of trans-fatty acids (often associated with heart disease and found in processed food).

Authors of the study, published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology, noted that these fats were associated only with risks for low-grade prostate cancer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Fish Oil Fights Weight Loss Caused by Chemotherapy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(EDMONTON, Alberta) -- Researchers at the University of Alberta suggest that adding fish oil supplements to the diets of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy could help prevent loss of muscle mass.

In this study, researchers compared 16 lung cancer patients who took fish oil to 24 patients who didn't. Muscle mass and fat tissue were monitored by CT scan periodically during initial chemotherapy cycle lasting about 10 weeks. Patients taking fish oil maintained their weight, while those who did not take fish oil lost an average of about 5 lbs., most of which was muscle mass.

The main ingredient in fish oil -- omega-3 fatty acids -- is thought to decrease inflammation in the body.

Critics of the study note that patients and researchers knew who took fish oil, so the effects could have been influenced by patient expectations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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