Exploring New Frontiers in Fish Oil and Health
Omega-3s May Play a Role in Joint Health
We know that fish-sourced omega-3 fats are good for the heart and eyes, but could they have a role in joint health too? The results of several small studies suggest that they might (1).
At the same time, many with osteoarthritis find that supplemental glucosamine has positive effects in reducing knee pain, despite some conflicting results from clinical trials. A study has now evaluated a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine in people suffering from osteoarthritis, and the results, while preliminary, appear to be promising (2).
A total of 177 patients with moderate-to-severe hip or knee osteoarthritis were tested over a period of 26 weeks in a randomized, double-blind, comparison study. The aim was to see if a combination of glucosamine sulfate (1500 mg/day) plus EPA and DHA (200 mg/day) was the same, inferior or superior to glucosamine alone.
The authors report that the combination was better at reducing pain and morning stiffness, suggesting that the ingredients might act synergistically. They theorize that glucosamine sulfate supports the rebuilding of cartilage while the omega-3s target arthritis-associated inflammation.
Fish Oil and Mental Health in Young People
Many drugs used to treat mental illness come with substantial costs and side effects. Could a relatively inexpensive and safe alternative actually help prevent mental disorders in young people at risk of developing them? That’s the promise of new findings from researchers at the Medical University of Vienna (3).
Those investigators tested 1,200 mg of EPA and DHA daily or placebo in 81 young adults (aged 13-25) who showed early or low-level symptoms of a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia, or who had a close relative with a psychotic disorder. The participants took the supplements for 12 weeks and were followed for another 40 weeks – a year in total.
At the study’s end, only 5% of the fish oil group had gone on to develop a mental disorder compared to 28% among the placebo takers. Those taking fish oil also experienced fewer symptoms and improved their ability to function.
The researchers point out that these results compare favorably to those of clinical trials involving anti-psychotic medications for prevention of mental disorders. But they also caution that more studies are needed to see whether fish oil is effective for older people or for those who already have an existing psychiatric condition.
Fighting Inflammation, Not Fat
While it’s clear that we need to press full speed ahead with the fight against obesity, the unsettling reality is that many Americans are still losing the battle of the bulge. So some researchers are looking at ways to make the extra pounds we carry less harmful to health.
One approach is to blunt the pro-inflammatory effects of excess fat tissue. By tamping down the immune system’s response to obesity, we might be able to prevent inflammation that contributes to heart disease, diabetes and other chronic problems.
In one double-blind study, investigators looked at the potential of an ‘anti-inflammatory mix’ to counter inflammation in 36 overweight men (4). The dietary mix consisted of moderate levels of fish oil combined with green tea extract, resveratrol, vitamins C and E, and lycopene-rich tomato extract – all selected for their anti-inflammatory actions. They examined the mixture’s influence on a wide variety of genes, and report a multitude of subtle changes indicating that the mix favorably influences inflammation of fat tissue, oxidative stress, and the ability of arteries to expand when needed.
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