omega-3 fatty acids

  1. New research finds omega 3s and vitamin D are vital for lupus patients

    Dear Reader,

    The Lupus Foundation of America calls the disease a "cruel mystery."

    But what's really mysterious here is how in the world two natural, safe, and effective treatments for this autoimmune disease keep being left in the dust... while risky meds continue to sell like hotcakes.

    One thing is very clear: If you or someone you love is suffering from lupus, the benefits of making sure your levels of these two nutrients are up to par is no mystery at all.

    Reinventing the wheel

    Two new studies have just confirmed what we've known all along -- that vitamin D and omega-3s can significantly help lupus patients.

    One, from the University of Michigan, found that those with lupus who included plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in their diets slept better and scored lower on what's called a measure of lupus "disease activity."

    The key seems to be concurrently upping those omega-3s while easing up on the omega-6 variety of fatty acids, but I'll get to more on that in a minute.

    In the second study, doctors at Johns Hopkins looked at the data on close to 1,400 lupus patients and found that low levels of vitamin D could actually "predict" kidney failure. Not having enough D circulating in your blood, they concluded, can up the risk of severe kidney disease by nearly 70 percent in those with lupus!

    Since direct sun exposure -- the best source of vitamin D -- aggravates lupus symptoms, low levels are practically a given among those with the disease. Close to 30 percent of the lupus patients in the Johns Hopkins study were found to be deficient in it.

    Dr. Michelle Petri, the study author who just so happens to be the director of the Hopkins Lupus Center, was very clear in her recommendations: "Supplementary vitamin D is very safe" and can help safeguard your kidneys, preventing one of "the most dreaded complications" of the disease.

    Getting sufficient levels of the sunshine vitamin, she added, can also help prevent blood clots, heart disease, and excessive protein in the urine.

    And, as I said, this is far from the first time vitamin D and omega-3s have been found to be breakthrough treatments for lupus patients. In fact, eAlert readers have been hearing about their benefits for a decade or more!

    Just last year, for example, we told you about a study out of Michigan State University that found DHA, a type of omega-3, was able to stop lupus in its tracks. That research was done in mice that were specially bred to be predisposed to the disease.

    One of the researchers said that he had never seen such a "dramatic protective response."

    So, why does it seem as if we're always having to reinvent the wheel where these kinds of valuable treatments are concerned?

    Much of that has to do with responses like this from the Lupus Foundation of America: Dr. Stacy Ardoin, a member of the foundation's medical and scientific advisory council, said that these studies, while "encouraging," really don't prove much of anything.

    She went on to say that she receives plenty of questions about what lupus patients should eat, but "It's an area where we have little evidence."

    Seriously? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!

    Could remarks such as those have anything to do with the fact that GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the horribly risky drug for lupus called Benlysta, is one of the foundation's top sponsors?

    Whatever the reason, it's clear as day that these two nutrients are vital for those with lupus. They're also easy to add to your routine.

    Vitamin D supplements, in fact, are about the least expensive ones out there. You can also up your levels by having more D-rich food such as eggs, wild salmon, mushrooms, and almond milk.

    Wild salmon is a great source of omega-3s as well, along with sardines, walnuts, flax and chia seeds. This essential fatty acid is also widely available in supplement form (just be sure the one you buy contains high amounts of DHA and EPA).

    As for omega-6 fatty acids, the ones those Michigan researchers said you should be consuming less of, they can be best avoided by eliminating "unhealthy" oils (such as corn, sunflower, and safflower) from your diet and replacing them with coconut or extra virgin olive oil.

    To Living Better With Lupus,

    Melissa Young

  2. Glucosamine relieves joint pain better with omega-3 fatty acids

    Don't think glucosamine alone can cut your joint pain? Try adding some extra fish oil to your regimen. A recent clinical trial from Germany showed that glucosamine worked better to relieve joint pain and stiffness when combined with omega-3 fatty acids.

    Researchers recruited 177 men and women with "moderate-to-severe" joint pain. Half of them received a 1500 mg per day of glucosamine sulfate. The other half received glucosamine plus omega-3 fatty acids (including 444 mg of fish oil, 200 mg of which were omega-3-fatty acids).

    After about six months, the researched assessed the patients' pain levels. Men and women who took glucosamine plus omega-3s reduced their morning stiffness more than the glucosamine alone group. Plus, they reduced pain in their hips and knees more than the group who just took glucosamine. So what's the big secret about omega-3s and your joints? According to the lead author of the study, "Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the inflammation process...whereas glucosamine sulfate further supports the rebuilding of lost cartilage substance."

  3. New hope for the parents of preemies

    Omega-3 fatty acids spur brain development in preemie girls Premature babies need more fish oil in their diet. Sounds odd, I know. But according to a new study out last week, a key ingredient in fish oil might help prevent severe developmental delays, even mental retardation in premature babies. So why is fish oil so good for babies? Fish oil (found only in certain types, like salmon, tuna, sardines, and cod) is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids on earth. These natural wonders protect you against a long list of ailments, such as arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and heart disease. We also know that omega-3s play a role in brain development (hence, the new study with preemies). But here’s the kicker… Your body doesn’t make omega-3 fatty acids. You must get them from the foods you eat. Very few of us eat enough fish to get adequate omega-3s. Plus, heat tends to destroy most of the good stuff. The best solution for anyone is really to take a fish oil capsule daily. So how does a newborn baby get fish oil, you ask? A pregnant mother passes on many essential fatty acids to her unborn child in the final weeks before giving birth. But premature babies often miss out on this period of development. They’re born lacking adequate levels of omega-3s. Breast milk and infant formula do contain some omega-3s, but some scientists believe it doesn’t contain enough for a preemie whose brain is still developing. In fact, some believe low DHA (one crucial type of omega-3) directly contributes to an increased risk of delayed cognitive development in preemies. This got a small group of researchers in Australia to start thinking.

    What if we could get more DHA to preemies?

    That’s just what researchers at the Women & Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, Australia did. They docs came up with the brilliant idea of giving nursing mothers (and formula fed babies) much more DHA and see what happened. It certainly couldn’t hurt as DHA is something all mommies and babies need anyway. Researchers divided the preemies into four groups: 1. Breastfed babies whose mothers received 3,000 mg per day of DHA in the form of tuna oil capsules. 2. Breastfed babies whose mothers received a placebo 3. Bottle-fed babies given DHA-enriched formula 4. Bottle-fed babies given regular formula DHA supplementation (for groups #1 and #3) began at birth and continued until the preterm baby reached his or her expected due date. Then, at 18 months of age (based on their full-term due date), all the children were given a series of cognitive and behavioral tests. The babies’ alertness, curiosity, and ability to perform simple tasks were rated according to a standard mental development index. The results were quite surprising, especially for a skeptic like me.
    Good news for preemie girls…
    Developmental delays are all too common for premature babies. But getting enough DHA worked miracles during the course of this study. In fact, the girls in the DHA groups had a 57 percent decreased risk of suffering a “mild” delay in mental development. In addition, girls in the DHA group were 83 percent less likely to suffer “significant” mental delays, opposed to the girls in the standard group. Overall, the preemie girls given extra DHA scored nearly as well as full-term babies in all the cognitive testing.
    But what about preemie boys?
    Interestingly, DHA supplementation appears not to have any significant impact on preterm boys. Why not, I wondered? Well, according to Maria Makrides, the study’s lead author and a nutritionist, “The higher metabolic rate in boys may mean that they utilize much of the DHA they receive into energy. Also, boys may have a higher requirement of DHA.” Hopefully, Dr. Makrides will continue her studies with DHA and preemie boys. It would be interesting to see if larger doses of DHA will make any difference in helping to prevent cognitive delays in those little guys.
    Watch out for the free radicals
    As a final note, it’s worth mentioning that DHA (and other fatty acids) increase the amount of free radicals in your body. (Free radicals are harmful molecules that can cause cancer and disease in the body.)
    So it’s important to remember, if you begin to supplement with any omega-3 fatty acid (or omega-6s), make sure to add some vitamin E and selenium to your regimen. These antioxidants will help neutralize the free radicals. In the meantime, if you or anyone you know gives birth to a baby prematurely, make sure to take a close look at this study. It was published in the January 14, 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Any good neonatologist should have seen it, but you never know.  

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