February 8, 2012
By Dr. Daniel Zagst
By 2012, most people understand the importance of including omega-3 fatty acids to their diets. Commonly found in fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids have countless benefits to a person’s health and complexion. From teens to the elderly, everyone can benefit from the wonders of omega-3 fatty acids, but what about pregnant moms and newborns? Recent research indicates that moms and fetuses need fish oils just as much as the rest of the population.
Pregnant women have been advised to consume omega-3 fatty acids in order to ensure proper development of the fetal neurological system. Even after birth, fish oil supplementation can improve the early development of a newborn’s brain, visual system, and motor function in women who breastfeed. These fish oils, most notably the fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is part of a group of omega-3s known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The human brain is full of PUFAs that modulate inflammation and provide integrity to the neuronal network. By supplying a developing brain with plenty of PUFAs, a mother can support their child’s proper development. Along with benefits to the child, a pregnant mother that consumes fish oils can prevent pre-term labor, reduce the risk of pre-ecclampsia, and may even help in the prevention of post-pardum depression (PPD).
Another breakthrough in fish oil research shows that fish oil supplementation during pregnancy decreases the risk of a newborn developing eczema. In a study of 700 pregnant women, those who took fish oil supplements versus a placebo had a decreased incidence of infant eczema by three times. When DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) enter the cell membrane, they suppress inflammation that could potentially lead to various allergies and skin reactions that develop in early childhood. This study is ongoing as it plans to follow the children until age six to determine the extent of the lasting benefits.
January 20, 2012
By Dr. David Jockers
For years we have been taught that calcium was the great solution to weakened bones. Pre and post-menopausal women are recommended to take calcium supplements to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. New research has shown that the theory of calcium supplementation improving bone health is a myth.
Calcium is the cornerstone mineral in bones. However, calcium consumption does not build bones. Countries with the highest dietary calcium consumption (US, Canada, & Scandinavian countries) have the highest rates of osteoporosis.
A recent meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal showed that calcium supplementation actually increased the risk of heart attacks. This study and others have looked at individuals taking calcium supplements in isolation without other key nutrients that play a role in calcium homeostasis.
Nanobacteria use the little calcium blocks to form hard shells of calcium phosphate as protection against the body’s immune system. This is similar to a snail using a shell as a form of armor from predators. This encapsulation provides a hiding spot for pathogenic bacteria, viruses and parasites. This promotes a continual inflammatory process in the area around the calcium shell creating plaque formation.
Proper Calcium Mineralization Depends upon Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K2
These nutrients stimulate the activity of the osteoblastic protein osteocalcin. Osteocalcin acts to strongly absorb and selectively place calcium from the bloodstream into the bone matrix. This acts like a vacuum, creating a very strong pull that sucks the excess calcium stones out of the bloodstream and possibly out of mineralized plaques.
Osteocalcin only becomes active when adequate levels of vitamin K2 are present. Vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 also act to inhibit osteoclasts, which act to break down bone. Most individuals are both deficient in D3 and K2. This creates an environment of poor calcium metabolism that leads to weakened bones and calcium deposition in soft tissues.
The bones also need a good mix of essential minerals and fatty acids for healthy bone function. This includes plant-derived magnesium and silica as well as animal forms of saturated fat and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA & DHA.
The best forms of silica come from cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, horsetail, nettles, oat straw & alfalfa. Magnesium comes from many different sources including nuts, seeds, legumes and green vegetables. The best source of magnesium is raw, organic cacao and high quality dark chocolate.
September 30th, 2011
By: John Phillip
Many people make the potentially fatal presumption that aging, chronic diseases and premature aging are natural events that come with advancing years. A plethora of current research studies confirm that nothing could be farther from the truth. In addition to super-nutrient (such as resveratrol, curcumin and vitamin D) optimization, researchers publishing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Clinical Cardiology provide documented evidence that beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids from dietary sources and supplementation slash the overall risk of an early death. The long-chain fats DHA and EPA elicit a profound effect on the heart and brain to ameliorate chronic diseases that bring an early demise to millions of unsuspecting individuals each year.
Health-minded individuals today are used to hearing about the myriad of benefits associated with eating fish and supplementing with Omega-3 fats. A wealth of peer-reviewed studies provide solid evidence that the DHA and EPA fatty acids help to prevent heart disease and sudden death from a heart attack, lower depression incidence and reduce stroke and dementia risks as well. New research shows that optimal Omega-3 blood levels lower the risk of dying from all causes by 85% in high risk patients, who had suffered a prior heart attack.
Omega-3 Fat Supplementation Slashes Risk of All-Cause Mortality in Half
Intrigued by the result of this research, scientists wanted to understand if mortality was affected in individuals with no evident heart disease. A group of men aged 64 to 76 years were supplemented with Omega-3 fats (2.4 grams per day) for a period of 3 years. During that time, the participants showed a 47% reduction in risk of dying from any cause compared to a placebo group. Women experienced a 44% lower risk of death in a similar study.
Researchers from the American Heart Association journal Stroke commented on the ground-breaking conclusions of multiple Omega-3 studies: “Evidence from prospective secondary prevention studies suggests that EPA+DHA supplementation ranging from 0.5 to 1.8 g/d (either as fatty fish or supplements) significantly reduces subsequent cardiac and all-cause mortality.” Omega-3 enriched foods and supplements help to improve the critical balance with Omega-6 fats to lower systemic inflammation. This provides the primary risk-reduction mechanism associated with the long-chain fat.
In addition to fatty fish (salmon, snapper, scallops and shrimp), non-meat food sources of Omega-3′s include walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds. The body does not efficiently process EPA and DHA fats from vegetarian sources, though strong evidence exists that these food sources still provide exceptional health benefits. To be certain you achieve optimal Omega-3 blood saturation levels as referenced in these studies, nutrition experts recommend supplementing with 2.4 grams per day of combined EPA and DHA (read package labels to ensure proper dose). When supplementing, check that the fish oil (krill oil is also an excellent option) is molecularly distilled to avoid contamination.
August 11th, 2011
By: Jonathan Benson
Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is crucial for the development and maintenance of the brain and nervous system, especially in young children. And a new study published in the journal Pediatrics adds to this, having found that pregnant women who supplement with Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) during their pregnancies produce children that are much healthier and less prone to sickness than those born to women who do not supplement with, or otherwise consume enough, DHA.
Dr. Usha Ramakrishnan, associate professor at Emory University’s Hubert Department of Global Health, and her team conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial on 1,100 pregnant women and 900 infants from Mexico. Some women received 400 milligrams (mg) of DHA, while others received a placebo, during the 18 to 22 weeks of gestation through childbirth.
After all the women eventually gave birth, children born to mothers in the DHA group experienced less overall sickness, and shorter duration of sickness. Some of the results are as follows:
-At one month of age, babies from the DHA group were 25 percent less likely to catch a cold or have a cough with phlegm or wheezing.
-At three months of age, babies from the DHA group experienced 14 percent less illness time than those from the placebo group.
-And at six months, DHA babies had less fevers, nasal secretions, breathing problems, and rashes than babies from the control group.
“This is a large scale, robust study that underscores the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy,” remarked Ramakrishnan. “Our findings indicate that pregnant women taking 400 mg of DHA are more likely to deliver healthier infants.”
The form of DHA used in the study was derived from algae, which is not necessarily an ideal form. In some cases, companies are actually using genetically-modified (GM) algae to create omega-3 oils. Monsanto is even working on gaining FDA approval for a GM soybean that artificially produces omega-3s, which is why it is important to know the source of your omega-3s before consuming them.
DHA, as well as the entire gamut of omega-3s that includes arachidonic acid (ARA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), can be found in natural foods like grass-fed meats, salmon, flax, and hemp. They can also be found from high-quality fish and cod liver oils, as well as salmon oil.
August 2nd, 2011
By: Genevra Pittman
Giving pregnant moms omega-3 fatty acid supplements might help prevent infection in their infants, suggests new research.
But the benefit of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, wasn’t always obvious in the study of Mexican moms, and researchers say not all babies will necessarily be better off because of it.
With a boost in moms’ DHA, “there are not dramatic effects. What we did find, however, is a general trend toward benefit,” said study author Usha Ramakrishnan, of Emory University in Atlanta.
Fatty acids like DHA are found in the body’s disease-fighting cells. But studies that have looked at the effect of fatty acid supplements in kids or adults have shown “inconsistent effects” on the immune system, the authors explain in Pediatrics.
Whether giving pregnant women extra DHA could improve their infants’ immune systems has been even less clear.
To investigate that question, Ramakrishnan and her colleagues recruited more than 1,000 pregnant women — all four or five months along – who were receiving prenatal care at a hospital and several health clinics in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Half the volunteers took two 200-milligram DHA supplements each day. The other half of the women, serving as a comparison group, took twice-daily placebo capsules containing a blend of corn and soy oils.
Women continued taking the supplements until they gave birth. Then, they brought their new babies back to the general hospital in Cuernavaca at one, three, and six months, and reported on the infants’ recent sickness symptoms.
At one month, babies of moms who had taken DHA had a trend toward fewer total cold symptoms than babies of moms who weren’t supplemented. About 38 percent of DHA group babies showed cold symptoms in the couple of weeks before that appointment, compared to 45 percent of placebo babies.
But the authors couldn’t rule out that the difference was due to chance.
At three and six months, there was no clear distinction between the two groups of babies with regard to cold symptoms. But in babies that did get sick, those whose moms had taken DHA had a shorter duration of some symptoms, such as fever and runny nose at the last visit.
In a couple of cases, babies of DHA moms had suffered symptoms for longer than comparison babies. For example, at the three-month visit, babies with colds had been stuffed up for an extra day in the DHA group, on average, according to their moms’ reports.
Ramakrishnan said that it generally seems safe to take DHA during pregnancy, at least in the doses her team examined. (At much higher doses, similar fatty acids have been linked to bleeding risks.) The 400-milligram daily dose is pretty typical of what would be in a prenatal vitamin or what moms could get in a couple of fish meals each week, she added.
Because of concerns about mercury exposure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends pregnant women limit their fish intake to two meals per week, choosing fish and shellfish that are low in mercury, such as salmon and shrimp.
DHA supplements can be bought for about $25 to $50 for a six-month supply. Some studies have also linked omega-3 fatty acids to lower cholesterol and a smaller risk of heart disease.
So should all pregnant moms be taking DHA to give their infants an infection-fighting boost?
“I think it may be variable — not everybody may benefit,” Ramakrishnan said. When it comes to infants’ health, “It’s not going to be that magic bullet.”
April 6th, 2011
By: Jonathan Benson
High consumption of foods naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps to reduce the risk of developing obesity-related illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, says a new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Even among obese populations, omega-3s demonstrably keep at bay inflammation and blood triglyceride levels, two markers of obesity-related illness.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in collaboration with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, gathered data from a small Eskimo community living in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region of southwest Alaska. Seventy percent of the 330-person group was overweight or obese, which is comparable to statistics in the lower 48 states. Yet the Eskimo group as a whole consumes roughly 20 times more omega-3s on a regular basis than the average American does.
“Because Yup’ik Eskimos have a traditional diet that includes large amounts of fatty fish and have a prevalence of overweight or obesity that is similar to that of the general US population, this offered a unique opportunity to study whether omega-3 fats change the association between obesity and chronic disease risk,” said Zeina Makhoul, PhD, lead study author.
Upon analysis, researchers noted significantly higher blood levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two types of omega-3 fats, in the Eskimo group overall, as well as rates of type-2 diabetes that were less than half of what they are in the continental US. And even among obese individuals in the Eskimo group, blood triglyceride levels and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were comparable to those found in normal-weight people, indicating that omega-3s offer health protective benefits for both thin and overweight individuals.
“Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons,” said Makhoul. “It appeared that high intakes of omega-3-rich seafood protected Yup’ik Eskios from some of the harmful effects of obesity.”
April 5th, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Craig Cooper
Debate over the health benefits and risks of flaxseed and omega-3 fatty acids, in particular alpha-linolenic acid (ALA- a form of omega-3 fatty acids), is ongoing and often contentious. People tend to become very defensive about their food choices, especially when they are making those choices because they are trying to prevent and/or treat a serious health problem, such as prostate cancer.
One controversy related to omega-3 fatty acids is whether ALA and flaxseed, which is a rich source of ALA, are beneficial or harmful to prostate health. According to medical oncologist and prostate cancer researcher Snuffy Myers, M.D., flaxseed and ALA, contrary to popular marketing, are not helpful for overall health nor for prostate health. Myers also states there is little to no evidence in the medical literature to support the use of flaxseed or flaxseed oil, that these products are hyped by marketers, and that people should turn to fish and fish oil as the best sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids. (1)
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are so-named because the body needs them for overall health. However, because the body cannot manufacture them they must be acquired through diet and/or supplementation. This fact is also true for omega-6 essential fatty acids. One significant difference between these two types of essential fatty acids — and there are several differences — is that omega-6s are plentiful and even excessive in the Standard American Diet (yes, our “SAD” diet) while omega-3s tend to be deficient.
The three dietary omega-3s are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In addition to flaxseed and flaxseed oil, ALA is found in soybeans and soybean oil, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil, walnuts and walnut oil, and purslane. EPA and DHA are found in cold-water fish such as halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. These fish do not themselves produce EPA and DHA, but instead acquire it from the krill and algae they eat.
EPA and DHA are the omega-3s necessary for health. This does not mean ALA has no role in your well-being. However, ALA is much less active than EPA and DHA and is mostly limited to cardiovascular benefits, and even in this capacity it is less effective than the other two omega-3s. In fact, before ALA can be utilized by the body, it must be converted into EPA, which is then transformed into DHA. Because the conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA in men is very low — less than 4 percent of ALA is changed to EPA and less than 0.1 percent becomes DHA — it is clearly better to get omega-3s from sources that provide EPA and DHA rather than ALA. Young women experience a significantly higher conversion rate — 21 percent of ALA becomes EPA, and 5 to 9 percent of EPA is converted into DHA — because the conversion is supported by estrogen activity. (1)
Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed is often touted as providing protection and relief from a number of ailments, although the validity of these claims has been questioned by some researchers. One group that examined the claims was from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Experts at Sloan-Kettering reviewed the available literature on flaxseed in human studies from nine databases, 20 additional journals, and various bibliographies. The reviewers found 13 categories in which flaxseed had been studied, including prostate cancer, constipation, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, breast cancer, cyclic breast pain, menopausal symptoms, diabetes, high blood pressure, lupus nephritis and HIV/AIDS. The reviewers concluded that nearly all the studies were of poor quality, and that “although flaxseed and flaxseed oil have several promising future uses, the available literature does not support recommendation for any condition at this time.” (Basch 2007)
When it comes to health impact, which one is worse, flaxseed or flaxseed oil? Although advocates of flaxseed and flaxseed oil might say the oil is the better deal because it delivers much greater amounts of ALA than does flaxseed, high levels of ALA also appear to increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer (see “Alpha-Linolenic Acid and Prostate Cancer” below).
In defense of flaxseed (but not the oil), Dr. Myers notes there is “good evidence” that flaxseed can quickly reduce the severity of high blood pressure, and that it is also beneficial in reducing elevated blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. This quality is attributed to flaxseed’s high soluble fiber content. (1)
October 7th, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
The best way to fight breast cancer is to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place, and you can help do that by supplementing with a high quality fish oil, suggests a new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. According to researchers from the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., current use of fish oil among the population is associated with a 32 percent decreased risk of developing breast cancer.
Theodore Brasky and his team surveyed 35,000 women between the ages of 50 and 76 on their dietary habits, and evaluated the results based on fish oil consumption patterns. Based on a ten-year average of fish oil intake, the team found that women who consume fish oil are at a significantly reduced risk of developing breast cancer than women who do not.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which previous studies have already found work to prevent cancer. These nutrients also help to balance out the negative effects of too much omega-6 intake, which research is showing leads to serious disease. You can learn more about fish oil by visiting the NaturalNews fish oil page.
Preventive medicine is the best medicine, but such medicine comes in the form of quality food and nutritional supplements. While health authorities and cancer groups push women to get mammograms and take preventive breast cancer drugs as a supposed solution, nutrition experts and those aware of the healing power of superfoods advise that women simply eat well and avoid processed food, get plenty of sunshine and vitamin D, and take an omega-3 supplement like high-quality fish oil, among other things.
When choosing a fish oil, it is best to find one that has undergone as little processing as possible, and one that has been tested to be free of harmful contaminants. And if you prefer not to consume animal products, some vegetarians alternatives to fish oil include flax and hemp oils.
August 25, 2010
by Ethan A. Huff
Japanese researchers have discovered yet another benefit to fish oil — treatment for depression. According to a study out of the University of Tokyo, teenage boys who eat a lot of oily fish have a 27 percent reduced risk of depression compared to those who eat little oily fish.
Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA offer numerous benefits to both body and brain health, and the new study indicates that these oils may also play a valuable role in preventing and treating depression.
Kentaro Murakami and his colleagues analyzed 6,500 Japanese junior high students between the ages of 12 and 15. Nearly a quarter of boys had initial symptoms of depression and about a third of girls had symptoms. After considering various life factors and dietary practices, the team discovered that the less oily fish boys ate, the more likely they were to have depression symptoms. They did not observe the same benefit in girls.
However several other studies have indicated that fish oil plays an important role in the mental health of both sexes, including a 1999 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry which found that manic-depressive patients who supplement with fish oil experience overall improvements in mental health.
“Fish oil…appears to be very good stuff for the brain and behavior, which makes sense because omega-3 fatty acids have a critical role in brain development and functioning, including promoting the growth of neurons in the frontal cortex. Fish oil has been shown in a series of studies by Andrew Stoll at Harvard to ease the symptoms of bipolar disorder and depression,” explains Charles Barber in his book Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation.
July 21, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
A study that recently appeared in the journal Ophthalmology has found that people who eat fatty fish at least once a week are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease that gradually causes vision impairment and blindness in senior adults. The study findings add to the growing list of health benefits gained by eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
More than 2,500 senior adults took eye exams and completed questionnaires as part of the study, and researchers evaluated the relationship between fish consumption and eye health. Fifteen percent of the participants already had early-to-intermediate stage AMD, and under three percent already had advanced AMD. However, participants who indicated they ate one or more servings of healthy fish a week were determined to be 60 percent less likely to develop advanced AMD than those who ate less than this amount.
The omega-3 fatty acids present in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna, are generally recognized to be the therapeutic nutrients responsible for helping to prevent macular degeneration. These compounds offer eye protection that, when regularly consumed, can prevent degenerative eye disease.
“Fish oil contains DHA, a substance concentrated in the retina of the eye, and the consumption of fish oils has been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration,” explains Marshall Editions in his book 1000 Cures for 200 Ailments: Integrated Alternative and Conventional Treatments for the Most Common Illnesses.
The Reuters report on the fish study also reveals that high doses of the antioxidants vitamins C and E, beta carotene and zinc, are all effective treatments for macular degeneration, and that many doctors already prescribe this mixture to their patients with the disease.
According to Dr. Steve Blake, author of Vitamins and Minerals Demystified, the retina of the eye contains high levels of zinc, but as a person ages, zinc levels decrease. So supplementing with zinc, among other antioxidants, appears to be a viable treatment method for the AMD.
Researchers are also evaluating the efficacy of treating AMD patients with the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are present in the retina as well.