Monday, December 20, 2010

New Omega-3 fatty acid studies by Jerry Brainum

Omega-3 fatty acids are well-known for their health protective effects, particularly in regard to cardiovascular protection. Some studies also suggest that ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids may help increase bodyfat oxidation or "fat-burning." The omega-3 fatty acids consist of three fatty acids: alpha linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is a precursor for the two active forms of omega-3, EPA and DHA. But the body can only convert small amounts, about 3-5% of ALA into EPA,with the conversion of ALA into DHA being almost negligible in men, although higher in women.Clearly, if you want to obtain the full benefit of omega-3 fatty acids, you need to either eat fatty fish, such as haddock, mackerel,sardines, anchovies, and others, or use omega-3 fish oil supplements. What isn't established yet is the optimal doses of pre-formed omega-3 fats to ingest, although the usual recommendation is to ingest about 1 gram a day of EPA and DHA.
     One little-known way to maximize levels of EPA and DHA in the blood is to eat foods rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are found mostly in fruits and vegetables. In a recent rat study reported in the Journal of Nutrition, Rats were provided with either anthocyanin, a flavonoid from corn and other sources, or a diet without the flavonoid. The results of the study, which was replicated two more times, shows that ingesting flavonoids boosts blood levels of EPA and DHA significantly.
    Another study tested the effects of omega-3 fats on muscle protein synthesis in older people. Older people tend to lose muscle faster, a condition called sarcopenia, and some scientists suggest that it could be the result of both lack of exercise and a blunted protein synthesis effect in muscle. In the new study, to be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,16 healthy older adults were randomly assigned to receive either omega-3 fatty acids or corn oil for 8 weeks. Corn oil is largely composed of omega-6 fatty acids. The study authors monitored  the rate of muscle protein synthesis, and also the effect on key elements in the muscle protein synthesis pathway. These were evalulated both on an empty stomach, and during conditions of high blood amino acid and insulin levels. The latter is associated with increased muscle protein synthesis. The results showed no effect of corn oil, nor any effect of omega-3 without the presence of food. But under conditions of high insulin and amino acids, the omega-3 significantly boosted muscle protein synthesis in the subjects, as well as anabolic signaling factors. While this study involved older people who tend to have blunted muscle protein synthesis reactions, the implication of the study are that ingesting omega-3 fats may also provide a synergistic effect with amino acids for boosting muscle protein synthesis in younger people. In that respect, fish oil supplements can be viewed as "anabolic."
     Another study, also in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, compared higher doses and the suggested dose of one gram of DHA and EPA on markers of inflammation and high triglyceride (fat) levels in the blood. The high dose of EPA and DHA was 3.4 grams a day compared to 0.86 grams a day in the lower dose group. This was supplied to 23 men and 3 older women, all of whom showed high blood triglyceride levels. A placebo was also provided. The results showed that the higher dose of omega-3 lowered lowered triglycerides by 27% compared to the placebo, while the lower dose had no effect. But neither dose showed any effect on endothelial function (blood vessel reactions) or inflammation over 8 weeks. Those who advocate omega-3 fats to treat inflammation suggest considerably higher doses for this, averaging 10-15 grams daily.
     As noted earlier, fish oil is often suggested as an aid for fat loss, and some studies have shown some efficiency in this regard. In a new study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 128 overweight people were assigned to receive either 5 fish oil caps a day or  a placebo for 6 months. They also dieted and exercised. At the end of 6 months, no differences were observed in weight loss between those who ingested the fish oil or those who ingested a placebo. Once again, however, the dose of fish oil provided may not have been enough for this purpose.

 ©,2015 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited

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