By JUDY FOREMAN, Health and Fitness News Service
April 19, 2005
Ask not what your parents did or didn't do when you were a child. Ask yourself what you had for dinner last night, and the night before, and the night before that.
For a half-dozen years, the evidence has been growing that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines and tuna can help prevent and treat depression.
Rich in EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), these are among the "good" oils that have long been known to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. They are also the oils that, in recent decades, in tandem with rising depression rates, Americans have not been getting enough of.
Omega-3s combat autoimmune diseases, reduce cardiac arrhythmias and are crucial to the development of the spinal cord, brain and retina in infants and to healthy brain functioning in adults. The case for linking low omega-3 levels to depression is strong, though not yet a slam-dunk.
But there is little risk and significant benefit to following the American Heart Association recommendation to eat fish at least twice a week and, if you already have heart disease, to take at least 1 gram a day of supplements containing EPA and DHA.
The latest evidence for the role of omega-3 fatty acids and depression was revealed in February when researchers from McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., reported that omega-3 fatty acids, plus uridine, a substance found commonly in protein-rich foods, prevented depression in rats just as well as antidepressant drugs.
The effect of uridine was immediate, said Bill Carlezon, director of the behavioral genetics lab at McLean. It took 30 days for omega-3 to kick in. But combining the two made omega-3 effective three times faster.
"There is something to this story," said Dr. Andrew Leuchter, vice chairman of psychiatry at the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA. "I have seen enough patients who treat themselves with omega-3 fatty acids to think these substances may have, at least in some individuals, potent effects on mood."
No one knows exactly why omega-3s might protect against depression, but theories abound. One is that depression may, in part, be an inflammatory problem, which omega-3s can dampen, said Dr. Andrew Stoll, director of psychopharmacology at McLean. Another is that the oils keep cell membranes more fluid, making it easier for receptors to respond to neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is often deficient in depression. Another is that omega-3s may boost levels of serotonin.
Whatever the underlying mechanism, "the epidemiological evidence is huge," Stoll said, that omega-3s can protect against depression.
Overall, major depression is 60 times more prevalent in countries where little fish is eaten, said Dr. Joseph R. Hibbeln, senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Md.
In 1998, Hibbeln and others showed that high fish-eating countries like Japan and Taiwan have very low rates of depression, while low fish-eating countries like Germany and the United States have high rates. "When you compare rates of depression across populations," he said, "there is a consistent finding of strikingly lower rates of major depression, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder and postpartum depression in countries where people eat more seafood."
Small clinical trials also support the association, though not uniformly.
A 2002 double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 20 people in Israel, for instance, showed that adding EPA to standard antidepressants significantly decreased depression after three weeks. A 2002 Scottish study of 60 people came to similar conclusions when patients added a 1-gram daily supplement of EPA to their standard treatment. (Interestingly, higher doses did not work as well.) A 2002 Taiwanese study of 28 people using both EPA and DHA also found significant improvement in depression scores, compared with a placebo.
But not all studies support this. Research from New Zealand, Finland and Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, Texas) found no evidence that consuming omega-3s improved mood.
In the plus column, bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depression, also seems to be helped by omega-3 fatty acids. A study comparing 10 countries showed that higher fish consumption correlated with lower rates of bipolar disorder. A 1999 study by Stoll of McLean showed that giving fish-oil supplements to people with bipolar disorder reduced episodes of depression and mania.
Omega-3 fatty acids also appear to reduce hostility and homicide. Several studies have found that low intake of fish and omega-3s correlates with higher rates of hostility, which is often associated with depression in males.
And postpartum depression also appears linked to omega-3 levels. A study of women in 23 countries showed that women who ate less seafood and had lower rates of DHA in their breast milk were more likely to have postpartum depression. Pilot studies by Dr. Marlene Freeman, director of the Women's Mental Health Program at the University of Arizona, Tucson, suggest taking DHA and EPA can reduce postpartum depression by 50 percent.
(Many pregnant women and nursing mothers, added Freeman, have been frightened about eating any kind of fish because of government warnings of particularly high mercury levels in a few species: king mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group, said sardines and salmon contain little mercury; women of reproductive age should probably limit their consumption of canned tuna to 1 can of white or 2 cans of light tuna per week.)
Even borderline personality disorder, characterized by volatile interpersonal relationships and impulsivity, seems to respond to omega-3 treatment. Yet another McLean study of 30 patients found that EPA, without any other medication, improved symptoms of borderline personality.
That's more than enough evidence for me. Given the longstanding overall health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and the newly emerging psychiatric benefits, the conclusion is a no-brainer. Eat fish twice a week. And if you hate fish (as I do), take at least 1 gram a day of a supplement with EPA and DHA.
* ** * * * * * * * * *
Choosing a high quality Omega supplement can give you the advantages of fish oil without the risks of eating contaminated fish.
By comparison, mercury levels in fish generally range from 10 ppb to 1,000 ppb, depending on the fish. In addition, none of the Shaklee products contained unsafe levels of lead or PCBs.
PCBs have been found in several fish including farm-raised salmon. There were no PCBs in Shaklee OmegaGuard
Shaklee OmegaGuard was also tested for dioxins, which can be found in some fish. However, no OmegaGuard supplements contained unsafe levels of dioxins.
http://www.bestself.myshaklee.com/ Product Info Sheet Bunny<>Sam Sewell 239/591-4565 Always Safe, Always Green, Always Works Products in harmony With Nature!
What It Is:
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the two principal fatty acids found in fish. They belong to a family of essential nutrients known a s omega-3 fatty acids. DHA can also be obtained from other marine sources, such as algae (algal oil). EPA and DHA are polyunsaturated fats ("good" fats, as opposed to saturated fats which are thought to increase the risk of heart disease). The body can manufacture both EPA and DHA from another essential fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) -- found in flaxseed oil, canola oil, soy oil and walnut oil -- but only to a limited extent. For more information about ALA see the separate review covering ALA and GLA products.
What It Does:
Omega-3 fatty acids have been most widely studied regarding their effects on cardiovascular health. Increased consumption of fish oil may help slow the progression of atherosclerosis, thereby preventing heart attacks, and reduce the risk of sudden death due to cardiac arrhythmias. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have a number of
heart-healthy effects, including reducing triglyceride levels, raising levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol and, possibly, "thinning" the blood, reducing levels of homocysteine and reducing blood pressure. Fish oils also appear to enhance the effectiveness of statin drugs used to improve cholesterol profile. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids to state: "Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease."
Arthritis and Other Inflammatory Diseases:
Increased intake of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil alter the body's production of substances known as prostaglandins, and, consequently, reduce some forms of inflammation. On the basis of this, EPA and DHA have been tried in the treatment of symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis with considerable success (especially in early stages of the disease). Unlike "disease modifying" drugs, however, fish oil probably doesn't slow the progression of the disease.
The anti-inflammatory effects of EPA and DHA have also caused researchers to investigate possible benefits of fish oil for the treatment of menstrual cramps, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease), lupus, and IgA nephropathy. For each of these conditions, at least one double-blind study has found positive results. However, in Crohn's disease, a trial of four grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids (50-60% EPA and 15-25% DHA) was ineffective at preventing relapses.
Psychiatric and Mental Disorders:
For reasons that are less clear, omega-3s seem to help depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia according to a limited number of double-blind trials. The combination of EPA plus the prescription drug fluoxetine (Prozac) was better than either EPA or fluoxetine alone for treating major depression in a short-term (8-week) study of 60 people.
Fish oil has also been proposed for attention deficit disorder, borderline personality disorder, dyslexia and cognitive impairment, but as yet the supporting evidence for these uses remains preliminary.
Other proposed uses of fish oils with some support include asthma, Raynaud's phenomenon (abnormal sensitivity of hands and feet to cold), chronic fatigue syndrome, cystic fibrosis, osteoporosis, reducing the risk of prostate and colorectal cancer and preventing weight loss during cancer chemotherapy.
DHA is important for normal development and functioning of the brain and retina in the fetus and in infants. For this reason, it is thought that pregnant or nursing mothers may benefit from supplementation. DHA is also often added to formula for premature infants and some regular infant formulas and foods. Omega-3's may also reduce the risk of
premature delivery in pregnant women.
The balance of current evidence suggests that fish oil is not effective for migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, male infertility and enhancing immunity in people with HIV.
Fish oil supplements are commonly given to pets to help maintain their coats and skin. [Reviews of other pet supplements by ConsumerLab.com include ALA and GLA, Joint Supplements and Multivitamins/ Multiminerals.]
Quality Concerns and What CL Tested for:
Because omega-3 fatty acids are obtained from natural sources, levels in supplements can vary, depending on the source and method of processing. Contamination has also been an issue, because fish can accumulate toxins such as mercury, dioxins, and PCBs. Mercury can damage the nervous system -- particularly in a fetus. Dioxins and
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) may be carcinogens at low levels of exposure over time and may have other deleterious effects. The freshness of the oil is also an important consideration because rancid fish oils have an extremely unpleasant odor and may not be as effective. Additionally, some capsules are enteric-coated and are expected to release the oil after the stomach to theoretically reduce fishy breath odor. If they release too soon they lose that potential benefit. If they release too late, the oil may not get absorbed.
Neither the FDA nor any other federal or state agency routinely tests fish or marine oil supplements for quality prior to sale.
OMEGAGUARD Size: 90 Softgels PROMOTES CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH
OmegaGuard supplies full-spectrum potency of ultrapure, pharmaceutical grade omega-3 fatty acids. Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.† Research also shows that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids promote cardiovascular health and help retain normal blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Omega-3s also support healthy brain, vision, and joint function.*
Ultra-pure OmegaGuard, the world’s finest fish oil that delivers a full spectrum of seven omega-3s including EPA, DHA, ALA, and more.
• Research shows that high levels of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may:
- Help reduce the risk of heart disease†3
- Help retain healthy triglyceride levels*5
- Help retain normal blood pressure*4
- Support brain2, visual1, and joint function*6
• Over 4,500 research studies on omega-3 fatty acids' effects on overall health have been conducted in the last 25 years.
• The average American intake of EPA and DHA is only 0.1 to 0.2 g/day, even though the American Heart Association recommends at least two fish meals per week to provide an intake of about 0.3 to 0.5 g/day of EPA and DHA.
• Most American diets provide more than ten times as much omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids, even though there is general scientific agreement that individuals should consume more omega-3 and less omega-6 fatty acids to promote good health.
Research shows that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids promote cardiovascular health and help retain normal blood pressure and triglyceride levels.*
† Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart disease.
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THE CHALLENGE According to the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association (AHA),heart disease — specifically coronary artery disease — is still the number one cause of death of men and women in the United States. And while it was once considered a man's disease, today more women than men die from heart disease. And unfortunately, at least 100 million Americans have one or more risk factors for heart disease.
To reduce the risk of heart disease, the AHA recommends eating two servings of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids each week. But most Americans eat fish only three times per month or less. Moreover, there are growing concerns about unsafe levels of contaminants such as mercury and lead that are now commonly found in many fish.
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- Uses no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
- A full spectrum of seven naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids including EPA, DHA, ALA and more
- Contains higher levels of EPA and DHA than leading brands
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