Monday, January 28, 2008

Omega-3: "An Omega a Day Helps Keep the Doctor Away"

There are several Omega-3 fatty acids. The two most commonly taken are DHA(docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA(eicosopentaenoic acid).

DHA is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that is found in tissues of marine animals. It is converted to EPA in humans. DHA competes with arachidonic acid for inclusion in cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways (substances responsible for inflammation). This competition may be responsible for its anti-inflammatory effect.

It reduces serum triglycerides (important in coronary artery disease). Increases fasting insulin and glucose concentrations(important for diabetes). It increases HDL (good cholesterol) by about 12 percent. It has an additive affect in reducing symptoms associated with schizophrenia and recurrent unipolar depressive disorder. The ethyl form of EPA is especially effective in depression (1gm twice a day). It slows weight loss in cachectic cancer patients. There is some evidence that suggests it to be helpful in prostate cancer.

It plays a key role in neural and synaptic membranes. These functions play a key role in learning and memory function. It is essential in healthy neurological development of infants. It is found in breast milk but not in standard infant formula. Supplementation is recommended for pregnant women beginning at week 15 (1.2gm-2gms/day).

It has been recommended for age-related macular degeneration, coronary disease, psoriasis(as an IV injection), hyperlipidemia, ADD, Alzheimer's. May also be beneficial in Multiple Sclerosis for its anti-inflammatory activity as well as its role in healthy neurological function.

The standard total Omega-3 fatty acid dose is 1800mg per day. It usually comes as a combination of EPA 350mg/DHA 200mg.

It is now well known that many of our diseases are in part a result of or are exacerbated by inflammation. Poor diets (high in saturated fatty acids and high glycemic index foods) as well as lack of adequate exercise play a significant role in the increase in inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is a healthy response of the body to injury, but is problematic when it becomes chronic inflammation artificially produced by poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. This inflammation affects our muscles, our vascular system and our neurological system, as well as our organs. Omega-3 fatty acids seem to block the inflammation pathway and help minimize subsequent damage. In addition to taking Omega-3's you should also minimize high glycemic foods in your diet. These include processed foods such as white sugar, white bread, pasta, etc. When we ingest high glycemic foods our pancreases release insulin and insulin is involved in a wide range of hormonal cascades which in turn cause inflammation.

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