Omega-3 fatty acids and brain health

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association looked at the relationship between consumption of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and some physical measures of the brain that have been linked to “brain health” and “cognitive health.” This research was a bit different from many other studies of omega-3 fatty acids and potential health benefits, because most other studies have looked for relationships between dietary intake of these compounds (found especially in deep water fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel) and major health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease or depression. The JAHA article, on the other hand, narrowed the focus by examining measurable small-scale physical changes in the brain over a period as long as five years.

The results: people with higher omega-3 fatty acid levels showed a significantly lower number of the small-scale physical brain changes that may be associated with brain dysfunction or cognitive decline.
The study authors concluded that, among the older men and women who were the study’s subjects, higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, “and in particular DHA, were associated with specific findings consistent with better brain health.”

Our comment: a fascinating study, because it adds another level of evidence contributing to the already widely accepted view that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for your brain, and indeed may provide important help in maintaining brain function as you age.

See the NYBC catalog for a selection of fatty acids, and note especially the Nordic Naturals Pro Omega choices, which are excellent quality fish oil supplements, containing the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids studied in the JAHA article:

FATTY ACIDS in the NYBC CATALOG

Of special interest is the Jarrow supplement Max DHA, which provides an enhanced dose of the omega-3 fatty acid often associated with brain health:

MAX DHA (Jarrow)

Reference:

Virtanen JK, Siscovick DS, Lemaitre RN, Longstreth WT, Spiegelman D, Rimm EB, King IB, & Mozaffarian D (2013). Circulating omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and subclinical brain abnormalities on MRI in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study. Journal of the American Heart Association, 2 (5) PMID: 24113325

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Omega-3 fatty acids (especially DHA) may protect against ulcerative colitis

Omega-3 fatty acids (for example, the EPA and the DHA in your fish oil supplements) have an anti-inflammatory effect, of interest to researchers in a recent study of inflammatory bowel disease, specifically ulcerative colitis. This large study, which focused on people from 45 to 74 years old, found that those with the highest consumption of DHA (410 mg to 2,000 mg per day) had a 77% reduction in the risk of developing ulcerative colitis over an average period of four years than those consuming the lowest amount (up to 110 mg per day). On the basis of their research, the study authors suggest that higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, could have a protective effect against development of ulcerative colitis.

For more information on DHA, EPA and other fatty acid supplements, see the NYBC category:
Fatty acid supplements
Note that NYBC stocks a variety of these supplements, both from fish oil (Nordic Naturals and Jarrow), and from vegetarian (algae) sources.

Reference:
John, S et al. Dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the aetiology of ulcerative colitis: a UK prospective cohort study. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 May; 22(5):602-6

New FDA warnings on statins; NYBC reviews supplements to support cardiovascular health

In February 2012 the FDA added new safety warnings about statins, the cholesterol-lowering medications that are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. The side effects cited by the FDA include memory loss, muscle pain (myopathy), and now a significant diabetes risk as well. Reports of memory loss, confusion, and forgetfulness were found in all types of patients taking statins, according to the new warnings.

In addition, a 2011 review in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine concluded that statin-related muscle pain was much more common than previously reported. (The main reason: clinical trials of statins often eliminated patients more likely to develop muscle pain as a side effect of the medication.) The same article estimated that muscle pain as a side effect may help explain why up to 25% of adults stop taking statins within six months, and up to 60% stop taking them within two years.

There is good evidence that statins can be valuable in preventing heart disease, and there is widespread consensus that they remain a crucial option for many dealing with cardiovascular disease and risk. However, it’s also more evident than ever that statin side effects are significant. And given the side effects, there is some disagreement among doctors about what cholesterol levels should call for treatment with statins, and what levels can better be dealt with through changes in diet or exercise habits.

It’s a complex subject and of course involves many individual factors including age, family history and blood pressure, so, as you’d expect, NYBC advocates that everyone make decisions about how best to manage cardiovascular risk and disease in consultation with their healthcare provider.

Given the new FDA warnings about statins, NYBC also believes that it’s more important than ever for people to be aware of the potential of dietary supplements in supporting cardiovascular health. Here are some of the supplements we often recommend for consideration:

–Plant products called sterols have been shown to inhibit cholesterol. See, for example, Douglas Labs’ Cardio-Edge.

Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids). Research has found a strong effect on lowering triglycerides, one measure associated with cardiovascular risk. Recommended to support cardiovascular health by the American Heart Association.

Flaxseed: 40-50 grams per day can have a substantial impact on cholesterol.

Pomegranate concentrate. Needs more study, though recent research found that diabetic patients taking pomegranate concentrate were able to lower their cholesterol significantly.

Finally, if you are taking statins, consider supplementing to lessen the risk of certain side effects. A 2011 research report suggested that Vitamin D deficiency might contribute to muscle pain caused as a side effect of statins, and that supplementing with the sunshine vitamin could reverse that side effect. (Reference: Glueck, C J et al. Curr Med Res Opin. (2011 Sep). “Vitamin D deficiency, myositis-myalgia, and reversible statin intolerance”) Also, a 2007 pilot study suggested that the supplement CoQ10, used to support cardiovascular health in a variety of contexts, could diminish statin-related myopathy and improve a person’s ability to continue normal daily activities. (Reference: Caso, Giuseppe. Am J Cardiol. 2007 May 15. “Effect of coenzyme q10 on myopathic symptoms in patients treated with statins”)

For more on Vitamin D and CoQ10 see the NYBC entries:

CoQ10

Vitamin D3

DHA Omega-3 (algae-based, no fish)

NYBC recently added to its catalog this omega-3 fatty acid supplement which is derived from a vegetable source (algae) rather than from fish:

DHA Omega-3 (Natrol) Each bottle, 30 softgels. Each softgel, 100 mg of DHA derived from algae (no fish/vegetarian). Suitable for vegetarians who wish to avoid fish/menhaden sources. This product recently passed a consumerlabs test as the only example of a non-fish-based omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Suggested use is 1 softgel with a meal or as directed.

See other entries under Omega-3 fatty acids on this Blog for evidence and recommendations for use.

Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin A for retinitis pigmentosa

A study published in Feb. 2012 reports that adding omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish, and also in fish oil) to Vitamin A palmitate supplementation significantly slowed the decline in distance and retinal visual acuities in adults with retinitis pigmentosa. Retinitis pigmentosa affects approximatley 1 in 4000 adult Americans. The combination Vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids, according to the study authors, may essentially preserve life-long vision for these patients.

Read the article at
http://archopht.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/archophthalmol.2011.2580v1

American Psychiatric Association Task Force on supplements for major depression

The American Psychiatric Association recently commissioned a task force to study the state of “alternative and complementary” therapies for major depression. This follows widespread interest from the scientific community and a considerable accumulation of research to date. The Task Force reported in a 2010 article that focused special attention on these supplements: omega-3 fatty acids (commonly taken as fish oil supplements), St John’s Wort (the botanical Hypericum), Folic acid (a synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, and fortified breads and cereals), and S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe).

We welcome this acknowledgment by the mainstream US medical establishment that supplements have a role to play in treating a disabling condition that affects millions of people per year, and is not always easily treatable. (Only one-third of adult patients newly diagnosed with major depression achieve complete symptom relief when taking one antidepressant, so there is often an extended search for the right combination of drug and other treatment needed for remission.)

Below is a brief recap of some of the latest thinking on these key supplements for depression. Of course NYBC recommends that you use these supplements in consultation with your healthcare provider. More information on these supplements can be found by following the links to the NYBC website.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oil) recommended as a stand-alone treatment for people concerned about side effects, such as those with multiple medical conditions. It has also been combined with other antidepressants as an adjunct therapy. Fish oil’s blood-thinning property makes it problematic for doses above 3g/day. Added benefit: fish oil supports cardiovascular health.

St. John’s Wort is an herb widely studied and used, especially in Europe, for mild to moderate depression, though it hasn’t proved effective for major depression. Those taking protease inhibitors or certain other drugs should avoid St. John’s Wort because it interferes with their action.

SAMe (S-adenosyl-l-methionine). Supplementing with SAMe increases concentrations of neurotransmitters that influence mood, and multiple studies have confirmed its antidepressant effect. A dose of 400-800mg/day has been studied for mild-to-moderate depression, and 800-1600mg/day for moderate-to-severe. Studied as a stand-alone treatment, or as an adjunct treatment. Added benefit: SAMe supports joint health and liver function.

When combined with an antidepressant, folic acid supplements can improve symptoms, particularly in women. However, folic acid supplements are not a stand-alone treatment for depression. The safe upper limit is 1,000 mcg per day.

The virtues of hemp protein powder

Hemp Protein powder has recently attracted notice as an alternative to whey-based protein powders. Here are some of the virtues and advantages of hemp-based powders:

1. This plant-based supplement supports muscle mass and muscle growth as effectively as whey-based protein powders, according to user reports.

2. Hemp protein powder is a surprisingly complete source of nutrients, containing all 20 known amino acids, including the 10 essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce. Hemp powder also includes the omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids in the ratio–1:3–that is often considered ideal. Last, hemp’s high fiber content may have benefit for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

3. Some users report that while they didn’t like the “sour milk” after taste (and breath) common with whey-based protein powders, the hemp alternative leaves a cleaner aftertaste in the mouth.

For other benefits of hemp protein powder, see the NYBC entry:

HEMP PROTEIN POWDER (ORGANIC) – JARROW