Omega-3’s Associated With Better Executive Function in Cohort of Young Children

Omega 3 and Childhood Brain DevelopmentNew research has found young children outperformed their peers on a measure of executive function when they had higher levels of Omega’s in their blood.

Over 300 children between the ages of 2 thru 6 years of age were participated in this recent study.  Blood spots tests were used to measure the participants Omega-3 index.  Children with higher blood levels of Essential Fatty Acids were more like to perform better on the standardized test of executive function, called the Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS).  This test involved children sorting cards based on the image shape, which represented a different set of rules than previously learned.  Participants were then asked to sort the cards by color.  The tests had a series of conditions or steps to follow.  Each step was given a pass-fail grade.

Older children performed better than younger participants and children with the highest Omega-3 levels performed at the highest levels.  This study confirmed earlier research which showed similar associations in older participants.  So the relationship between executive boosting and Omega-3 is not linked to any one stage of life.  Researchers believe larger study groups are needed to confirm this link.

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Omega-3 Consumption and Hypertension

Omega-3 Consumption and HypertensionNew research published in Hypertension shows a high Omega-3 Index, which is a newly established risk measure for heart disease, may be inversely related to Blood Pressure levels in healthy young adults.  This newest study supports a meta-analysis done in 2014 which concluded Blood-Pressure-Lowing effects could be associated with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.

Over 2000 healthy adults, ages 25 through 41 participated in this study.  Individuals with a BMI (body mass index) over 35 kg/m, cardiovascular disease and diabetes were excluded from the study.  The average Omega-3 index was 4.58%.  When compared with participants in the lowest Omega-3 index quartile, participants in the highest Omega-3 index quartile had SBP (systolic blood pressure) that was 4 mmHg lower and DBP (diastolic blood pressure) that was 2 mmHg lower. Additionally the difference in blood pressure was seen with only a 2% difference in the Omega-3 index (3.8% vs 5.8%) which suggests the effects seen may have been greater if the Omega-3 index had been higher.  For overall health and reductions in the risk of premature death, the Omega-3 index sets the ideal standard for Omega-3 between 8% and 12%.

For this study a unique tool was used for testing Omega-3 levels.  A blood test, called the Omega-3 index, tests the level of Omega-3 levels in red blood cells with a single drop of blood.  A campaign called the Omega-3 project has also been established to aid in raising awareness, among physicians and their patients, about the health ramifications of low Omega-3 levels.

The American Heart Association believes over 100 million people, nearly half of all adults, in the United States currently have High Blood Pressure which puts them at an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

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Combination of Omega-3 and Vitamin D May Benefit PCOS Patients

PCOS-Omega-3 and Vitamin DResearchers have found combining Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids and Vitamin D might benefit women who suffer from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).  PCOS is an endocrine disorder which is believed to affect anywhere between 6% and 10% of women of reproductive age.  PCOS is characterized by impaired fertility, hyperandrogenism, menstrual dysfunction and polycystic ovaries.  There have also been links between PCOS and increased risks for hypertension, depression, anxiety, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

60 patients with PCOS , ranging in age from 18 to 40 years of age, participated in this study.  Half the participants were randomly assigned to receive 50,000 IU of Vitamin D every 2 weeks and 2,000 mg of Omega-3 everyday.  The other half of the participants received a placebo.  The study lasted 12 weeks.

The group supplementing with Vitamin D and Omega-3 had significantly lower total serum testosterone levels when compared with the placebo group.  The group of participants that were supplementing with the Vitamin D and the Omega-3 also saw noticeable improvements in anxiety and stress, general health and depression not seen in the group taking the placebo.  Additionally the Omega-3 and Vitamin D group experienced reductions in their serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein and malondialdehyde levels and increases in total plasma antioxidant capacity when compared to the placebo group.

This study’s main limitations involved not taking a measurement of circulating levels of free fatty acids, also not looking at the impact supplementing with Vitamin D and Omega-3 had on gene expression related to oxidative stress as well as metabolic profiles.  The smaller sample size, short study duration may also be factors that warrant further studies.

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Omega-3 and Cognitive Health

Omega 3 and Cognitive HealthThere is a lot of research out there that looks at the connection between brain health and Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids, from cognitive function and memory to PTSD and mood elevation.

Here is a recap about the current science on Omega-3:

There are many randomized clinical studies that show very clear benefits for Omega-3 and its ability to reduce the rate of age-related cognitive decline and increase cognitive performance.  A key area of research now centers on the role Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids plays in the developments of a healthy fetus during pregnancy.  A new study reported increasing the intake of DHA, a component of Omega-3, could produce improvements in motor function later in life in offspring.  Another study showed improvements in motor, cognition, and visual development in offspring whose mother’s supplemented with Omega-3. The results of a meta-analysis that reviewed 15 randomized controlled gold trials showed an improvement in motor skills in children when Omega-3 supplementation occurred during pregnancy and infancy.

Other studies have reported Omega-3 supplementation supports improvements in behavior and mood, including benefits of EPA and reductions in depression symptoms.  One study found a 50% reduction in depression ratings in participants supplementing with 1,000 mg of EPA which matched the effects seen in patients taking the antidepressant drug Fluoxetine.  A recent study found EPA was helpful in reducing the severity of symptoms in suffers of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  Increased levels of EPA and DHA, EPA only and the ratio of EPA to Omega-6 AA (arachidonic acid) were all associated with low PTSD severity symptoms in individuals who supplemented with Omega-3 after a 3 month period.  Another recent study found people suffering from PTSD benefited from Omega-3 supplementation for relieving psychophysiological symptoms like a pounding heart.

The findings in these new studies are of particular interest to both former and current members of the armed forces.  Additionally interest in Omega-3 for mood improvement, reductions in suicide rates amount current and ex-military personnel, increasing recovery from traumatic brain injury as well as improvements in reaction time for fighter pilots is being reviewed by the military.

Further studies of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids and its benefits are imminent.

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Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age Related Macular DegenerationAs a person ages it is inevitable that their vision will diminish.  Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), for millions of people over the age of 55, is a more serious condition.  AMD is an irreversible eye disease and ultimately leads to vision impairment and even blindness.

AMD is the number one cause of blindness and visual impairment among elderly white Americans (54% of cases) especially women.  About 2 million Americans have advanced AMD while over 8 million people have intermediate AMD with the risk that the disease will progress to the more advanced stage.  The likelihood of getting this disease increases after the age of 55.

AMD is a progressive disease in which the light and color sensing cells in the macular region of the retina in the back of the eye deteriorate.  As the disease progresses, central vision is lost.  Central vision is responsible for detailed tasks like reading, driving and facial recognition.

There are 2 types of age related macular degeneration:

Dry-This is the most common form of the disease and accounts for 85-90% of all AMD cases.  Dry AMD is defined by a buildup of drusen (yellowish deposits) beneath the retina.  Symptoms of advanced AMD may include spots or holes in the center field of vision or blurred vision.  These blurred spots become bigger and darker as the disease progresses.  Usually dry AMD effect one eye first and then can spread to the next eye.

Wet-This form is a more severe form of AMD with a rapidly worsening loss of vision.  With the wet form of AMD there is a growth of abnormal blood vessels under the macula.  These blood vessels are very fragile.  Damage to the macular happens when these blood vessels leak fluid and blood causing vision distortion and blindness.

There has been much research that suggests that diet and supplements can be influential in eye diseases related to aging like AMD.

ARED-One of the most widely publicized studies relating supplements and AMD was conducted the NEI (National Eye Institute) part of the NIH (National Institute of Health.  Over 4700 people, between 55 and 80 years of age, participated in the study.  Participants received the following antioxidant “cocktail” or a placebo:

Vitamin C (500 MG)

Vitamin E (400 IU)

Beta Carotene (15 MG)

Zinc (80 MG)

Copper (2 MG)

A 25% reduction in risk of developing AMD was seen in individuals who were identified as having a higher risk for the disease.  For those people who already had AMD a reduction in vision loss risk of 19% was seen.

AREDS2-This 5 year companion study began in 2006.  It was undertaken with the idea that by changing the antioxidant “cocktail” the results obtained by AREDS might be improved.  Beta Carotene was removed.  Zinc was removed or reduced and Omega 3 (1000 MG), Lutein (10MG)  and Zeaxanthin (2 MG) were added.  For participants with low dietary lutein/zeaxanthin supplementation a lowered risk of advanced AMD and a reduced need for cataract surgery was seen.   Other prominent studies reinforced the results seen in AREDS2.

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Omega-3 and Moist Compresses Novel Approach to Dry Eyes

Omega3 and Dry EyeA new pilot study found a combination of supplementing with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids and a Warm Heat Compress can be an effective alternative option for treating Dry Eye Disease (DED).

35 individuals (33 of whom completed the study) participated in this 4 week trial.  Participants varied in age from 18 to 75 years of age and suffered from Meibomian Gland Disease (MGD), an ocular surface disease.

The Meibomian glands secrete a protein and lipid (fat) mixture in the eye.  This mixture creates a clear optical surface for the cornea and improves stability as well as reduces the tear film evaporation.  Additionally MGD prevents tear overflow and bacterial colonization.  When the gland is not functioning it destabilizes the tear film which causes increased evaporation. MGD is believed to be an instigator of DED.

In this study, participants supplemented with supplement that contained 810 mg of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids and used a warm eye compress heated for 30 seconds in the microwave and left on closed eyes for 5 minutes daily.

Over 54% of the study participants were considered to have Dry Eye Disease.  Participants showed a significant improvement between baseline and the end of the study period with 45% of the participants reporting they no longer had symptoms of DED.

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Oily Fish, Vitamin B6 and Zinc May Delay Menopause

Menopause and Fish Oil, Vitamin B-6 and ZincNew research supports a later onset of natural menopause when there is a high intake of oily fish, Zinc and Vitamin B6.  The opposite seems to likely when the diet is high in refined carbohydrates.

Data from the UK Women’s Cohort Study (UKWCS), which had over 14,000 women participants, was used for this research.  A health study and a reproductive history were given.  A diet questionnaire was also filled out by all participants.  A follow up questionnaire and another survey were given to the participants after four years.  This allowed the researchers to determine that 900 women had experienced the beginnings of natural menopause.  The diets of these participants were then assessed.

Researchers found that in women whose diet’s included high amounts of oily fish, there was a delay in the beginning of their menopause by almost 3 years.  In women whose diet included high amounts of rice and refined pasta, their menopause was more like to begin a year and a half earlier than average.  Additionally the study found that an association also existed between the antioxidant properties of Vitamin B6 and Zinc and a later onset of natural menopause. Women who experience menopause earlier than average have a greater risk of future unhealthy conditions like heart disease and osteoporosis.

Further studies are needed to clarify how these findings may affect well being and health.

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