According to a study published in the journal Stroke, individuals who consume fish on a few occasions weekly may face a lower risk of suffering a stroke compared to people who eat little fish or do not eat it at all. Continue reading
Krill oil is now being promoted as a better alternative to fish oil supplements. Krill are tiny shrimp-like crustaceans.
Promoters say that krill oil provides similar cardiac benefits as fish oil, but with fewer capsules and no fishy taste.
However, krill oil supplements contain less of the omega-3s EPA and DHA than fish oil supplements. Nevertheless, manufacturers claim krill oil is better absorbed because the omega-3s are in a phospholipid form.
According to the experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, “Preliminary evidence shows that a specific krill oil product (Neptune Krill Oil NKO, Neptune Technologies & Bioresources, Inc) can lower cholesterol and triglycerides.”
“But,” they add, “overall there’s much better evidence that fish oil can lower triglycerides and cardiovascular risk.”
Furthermore, krill oil usually costs more than fish oil.
So, the NMCD recommends to prescribers, “For now, advise patients to stick with fish oil. Recommend taking it with food or trying an enteric-coated product if fishy taste is a problem. Suggest krill oil only for healthy people who want to add these omega-3s to their diet but can’t tolerate fish oil.”
All the talk about the benefits of omega-3s has parents asking whether CHILDREN should take fish oil supplements. Omega-3s are important for neurodevelopment … and they’re now showing up in many prenatal vitamins, infant formulas, and foods. Fish oil supplements for kids are often promoted as improving visual acuity, brain function, or intelligence.
But, according to the experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, “there’s no proof that omega-3 supplements make kids ‘smarter’…or have any cognitive benefit in most kids.”
In fact, according to the NMCD, “… many of these claims will be removed … due to pressure from the feds.”
The NCMD recommends this to physicians and healthcare professionals who care for kids:
- Tell parents that most kids don’t need fish oil supplements.
- Instead, suggest that kids eat about 4 oz/week of fatty fish … such as canned light tuna, salmon burgers, etc. This provides about 250 mg/day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
- Supplements may be worth a try for kids who don’t get enough omega-3s from diet … especially those with behavioral or psychiatric disorders as preliminary evidence suggests fish oil MIGHT benefit kids with ADHD symptoms … autism … depression … or those at high risk for psychosis.
- Reassure parents that most fish oil supplements don’t contain mercury or harmful levels of PCBs. To be safe, suggest a “USP Verified” or “ConsumerLab” product.
- Tell parents NOT to use cod liver oil, as it has too much vitamin A.
- Tell parents NOT to use flaxseed, as it doesn’t contain the same omega-3s as fish oil.
The amount of fish oil one has to take each day depends upon why one is taking it. Here are some diseases and the amount of the effective daily doses of total fish oil or EPA and DHA (the most active components of fish oil) needed for each disorder (according to the experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database): Continue reading
Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) have been shown effective in treating high levels of triglycerides and in preventing primary and secondary cardiovascular disease. Now comes a new study showing that the fatty acid found in fish oil (EPA) has shown promise in the prevention of colorectal cancer in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis. The study was a randomized study. Although the study was performed in patients with a genetic predisposition to colorectal cancer, the benefits might also extend to non-inherited, or sporadic, colon cancer. Here are the details from MedPage:
An omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid significantly reduced both the number and size of rectal polyps in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis, a randomized trial found.
Six months of treatment with the free fatty acid formulation of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) led to a decrease in mean number of polyps from 4.13 at baseline to 3.61, a 12.4% decrease, according to Nicholas J. West, MBBS, of St. Mark’s Hospital in London, and colleagues.
In contrast, six months of placebo treatment resulted in an increase from 4.50 polyps at baseline to 5.05, which represented a 9.7% increase, the researchers reported online in Gut.
Familial adenomatous polyposis is an autosomal dominant disorder in which affected individuals are predisposed to colorectal cancer, and prophylactic removal of the colon is recommended.
In younger patients, the procedure generally undertaken is colectomy with ileorectal anastomosis, but the remnant of rectal tissue remains susceptible, so patients must undergo routine endoscopic surveillance.
In the past, patients also were given chemoprevention with cyclo-oxygenase (COX)-2 inhibitors, but the recognition that these drugs have cardiovascular toxicity limits their long-term use today.
Strong preclinical evidence suggests that certain polyunsaturated fatty acids are active against colorectal cancer, but typical fish oil supplements are associated with adverse effects such as dyspepsia.
So a new, enteric-coated, free fatty acid formulation which is released and absorbed primarily in the small intestine was used to evaluate the potential efficacy of EPA for prevention of colorectal cancer in post-colectomy patients.
A total of 55 adult patients with familial polyposis were randomized to receive 2 g EPA per day or placebo.
After six months the difference between the change in polyp number between the EPA and placebo groups was −1.06 (95% CI −1.78 to −0.35, P=0.005), with an overall decrease of 22.4% (95% CI 5.1 to 39.6%, P=0.012).
In addition, the sum of polyp diameters decreased by 12.6% in the EPA group and increased by 17.2% in the placebo group — an overall difference of 29.8% in polyp size (95% CI 3.6 to 56.1, P=0.027).
Video endoscopy determined that EPA treatment was associated with a modest improvement in the global rectal polyp burden (+0.09), compared to overall worsening with placebo (−0.34). The difference was statistically significant (P=0.011).
There also was a mean 2.6-fold increase in rectal mucosal EPA levels associated with the active treatment.
Two patients in the placebo group withdrew because of abdominal pain, nausea, and rash, while one patient in the EPA group withdrew because of nausea and epigastric discomfort.
The most common adverse event in both groups was diarrhea, which may reflect a post-colectomy lack of physiologic control of fecal water, the investigators suggested.
Nausea was reported by nine patients receiving EPA and by three receiving placebo.
Patients reported no bleeding episodes, and there were no serious adverse events attributable to the treatment.
The antineoplastic activity demonstrated in the study “is almost certainly a combination of regression of existing adenomas and prevention of de novo tumor growth,” the researchers concluded.
Comparison of these findings with those from previous studies of chemoprevention in familial polyposis with the COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib found that the magnitude of effect was “remarkably similar.”
The authors said the data also suggest a role for EPA in chemoprevention of sporadic colorectal neoplasia.
The mechanisms by which EPA inhibits neoplastic activity remain uncertain, although both COX-dependent and COX-independent mechanisms of action have been described, including antioxidant effects and alteration of T cell and colonocyte membrane ‘lipid raft’ functions.
Aside from antineoplastic activity, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have beneficial cardiovascular and antiplatelet properties.
“Therefore, it is possible that EPA [free fatty acid] treatment may combine [colorectal cancer] chemopreventative efficacy with cardiovascular benefits, which is a particularly attractive therapeutic strategy for middle-to-old age populations relevant to secondary prevention of sporadic colorectal neoplasia,” the investigators asserted.
CNN has a nice report about a question that I’m often asked, “Which is healthier — farmed or wild fish?”
These days, it’s hard to know what underwater life you should be eating. There’s talk of great benefits from fish-originating omega-3 fatty acids but worries about contamination and concerns about the environmental impact of farmed fish.
PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, even launched a campaign last year to discourage people from killing and eating fish, suggesting that they be called “sea kittens” instead.
In answering a recent reader question about the relative benefits of farmed and wild salmon, CNNHealth’s nutrition expert, Dr. Melina Jampolis, urged the reader to “limit farmed salmon consumption to once a week at most if you are unable to find fresh, wild salmon.”
The answer, which also quoted a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, generated a flurry of questions and comments. In response, CNNHealth took a deeper look at the issue.
“It’s really high time that people have a new perspective on farmed salmon from a nutrition standpoint,” said Gavin Gibbons, spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute Inc., the largest seafood trade organization in the United States.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fat and is a good source of protein while being low in calories and saturated fat. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death and are associated with better cholesterol levels.
Six ounces of East Coast Atlantic salmon has more DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids than the same weight of wild salmon, shrimp, chicken or beef (which has none).
Because of these benefits, the American Heart Association says, people should eat fish twice a week, especially fatty fish such as salmon.
But studies have found that some species of fish are contaminated with methylmercury, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
A 2003 report from the Environmental Working Group showed that farmed salmon in the U.S. has the highest levels of PCBs, toxic man-made chemicals. And a widely publicized study in the journal Science in January 2004 suggested that farmed Atlantic salmon had higher levels of PCBs and other toxics than wild Pacific salmon.
Amid public concern, the importation of farmed Atlantic salmon to the United States went down by 20 percent in early 2004.
But subsequent research has found that the health benefits of both farmed and wild salmon exceed potential risks, said Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Rimm was a co-author of a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006 that said the PCB levels in farmed salmon were not a cause of concern compared with the benefits.
“It’s clear that if there is any risk, the benefit is still in the range of 300 to 1,000 times greater from the fact that you’re getting the omega-3s,” he said.
Jampolis, citing the more recent research, agreed that the benefits of eating any salmon outweigh the risks, especially with heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States and the fact that salmon is one of the best sources of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
She continues to recommend trimming the skin and fat as much as possible and using cooking methods such as grilling and boiling to reduce fat, as this is where the toxic chemicals are stored.
Farmed fish receive a diet that often consists of smaller fish, such as sardines, and if they eat contaminated food, the fish themselves retain that toxicity.
In recent years, fish-feed makers have done a better job of regulating themselves, and the levels of some contaminants have gone down, Rimm said. Farmed salmon is not the main source of PCBs for the average person; in fact, the majority of these chemicals that we ingest daily probably comes from other animal products such as beef and chicken, he said.
Because farmed salmon are fed more, they contain more omega-3 fatty acids than wild fish, which tend to burn off these fats, he said.
Anyone concerned about contamination issues should try to find out where their fish came from and read about any potential problems in that area, said David Love, project director at the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He called for more widespread testing of contaminants in fish in the United States and better labeling practices so consumers know how and where their fish were caught.
Fish eaters should also consider eating smaller fish on the food chain, such as anchovies, mackerel and sardines, because they live shorter lives and don’t have as much opportunity as larger fish to pick up toxics, Love said. Since they are lower on the food chain, they are a more sustainable choice, he said.
The environmental impact of eating particular kinds of fish is an important matter but not so straightforward, experts say. To produce one farmed salmon, you have to feed it more than its weight in smaller fish, which leads to a net loss of fish from the sea and potential ecosystem disruption, Love said.
“It may not hurt my health, and it may not hurt your health, but on a population level, you can see some issues,” Love said.
Some farmed fish may also receive antibiotics that, if spread in the human population in large quantities, could lead to antibiotic resistance, meaning bacteria would no longer respond to these drugs, he said.
But there are also farmed fish produced in environmentally friendly situations, Rimm said. In some cases, it may take more energy to capture wild fish than to keep them in a pen, leading to a negative environmental impact.
Eating different kinds of fish is good for both your individual health and for the environment, experts say. From the health angle, it minimizes your risk of contamination from any one fish group, Jampolis said. From the environmental perspective, it would be detrimental to the ecosystem if everyone ate just one kind of fish en masse, Love said.
The AP reports that “fish oil pills may be able to save some young people with signs of mental illness from descending into schizophrenia,” according to a study published in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. For the study, investigators “identified 81 people, ages 13 to 25, with warning signs of psychosis,” then randomized 41 of them “to take four fish oil pills a day for three months” at a “daily dose of 1,200 milligrams.”
The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported that “for a year after” the study “was completed,12 weeks of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fish oil reduced progression to full-blown psychosis in a large group of adolescents and young adults,” while simultaneously improving “many of the symptoms that identified these young patients as likely schizophrenics and bipolar disorder sufferers.” In fact, “roughly 5% of those on fish oil went on to develop full-blown psychosis during the study period, versus 28% of those who got psychotherapy alone.”
WebMD reported, “No other intervention, including psychiatric” medications, “has achieved as much for so long after treatment stopped.” Unlike antipsychotic medications, “fish oil pills have no serious side effects.”
Reuters noted that fish oils may be used someday to stave off or even prevent psychotic or bipolar illness as well as substance abuse disorder and depression.
You can read my other blogs about fish oil here:
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Breast-fed babies may have an advantage over bottle-fed infants in development and cognition, but a new study shows it may be possible to close the gap using infant formula fortified with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in breast milk. Continue reading
Fish, which is high in “good fat,” omega-3 fatty acids, confers multiple health benefits, but it can be challenging to find freshest fish as so often fresh fish has been frozen. A surprising tip can be to try whole fish: it shrinks less than fillets when cooking and gives more value. In this article, you’ll find tons of suggestions on how to buy the best fish for your family.
More Information: Continue reading