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Thursday
Dec032009

More on Omega-3

Written by Tom Nikkola - Director of Nutrition & Weight Management

If there were two supplements I wouldn't be without, they would be a high-quality multivitamin and omega-3 fish oil. Month after month, research studies are published showing significant benefits of omega-3 fish oil. This month's publication of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has another study showing some significant benefits of fish oil.

Previous articles have discussed the importance of omega-3 fish oil in reducing triglyceride levels, a major marker of heart disease risk. This month's study was on a subgroup of the population which had elevated triglycerides (over 150 mg/dL) and/or issues with insulin sensitivity, and also had HIV. The study group was divided into two groups. The control group was put on a diet that was controlled for total fat, type of fat, fiber and glycemic load. The test group was put on the same control diet, but was also given six grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids. The group given the omega-3 fatty acids dropped their triglyceride levels by 27%, with a median 180 mg/dL at the beginning of the 13-week study, to 114 mg/dL at the end! The group that was only controlled for diet, and did not receive any omega-3 fatty acids, did not reduce their triglyceride levels. The conclusion:

Diet and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation dramatically reduced serum triglycerides, decreased arachidonic acid in the phospholipids fraction, and appeared to decrease the denovo lipogenesis associated with the metabolic syndrome in the intervention group.

Because of the design of the research study, it could be said these results only apply to the same subset of the population (high triglycerides, insulin resistance, HIV). However, there are many other studies which have been done that show similar results from omega-3 supplementation. High triglyceride levels can be significantly reduced by reducing excess dietary carbohydrates. This is usually the best way to reduce triglyceride levels. However, a 27% reduction from omega-3 fatty acids is quite significant. Cleaning up the diet and adding omega-3s can be especially effective.

Of course, it's a good idea to get as much omega-3 from whole foods diet as possible. Deep, cold water ocean fish is a great way to increase omega-3s. Just be careful of the marketing on products in the grocery store that advertise "omega-3." Many of these products contain an omega-3 fatty acid called ALA, which the body has to convert to the two beneficial omega-3s DHA and EPA. Fish oil is high in DHA and EPA, so this is the best source for omega-3s. Since very few people eat fatty fish on a daily basis, it makes sense to supplement with a high-quality fish oil.

For some additional reading on what omega-3 fatty acids are best and how to ensure you're taking in adequate amounts, you can read Mega Benefits from Omega-3 Fish Oil. If taking an omega-3 supplement isn't as much of a habit as brushing your teeth, it probably should be.

Reference:

Woods M, Wanke C, Ling P, Hendricks K, Tang A, Knox T, Andersson C, Dong K, Skinner S, Bistrian B. Effect of a dietary intervention and n-3 fatty acid supplementation on measures of serum lipid and insulin sensitivity in persons with HIV. Am J Clin Nutr 90:1566-1578, 2009.

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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