Raynaud's phenomenon is characterized by periods of disrupted blood flow in the fingers caused by exposure to cold or stress. The condition is relieved by warming the affected parts. It is estimates that about 4% of the US. Population suffers from the primary form of this phenomenon, the so-called Raynaud's disease. Secondary Raynaud's phenomenon occurs in association with connective tissue disease (progressive systemic sclerosis). Researcher at Albany medical college now report that supplementation with marine oils significantly reduces the symptoms of Raynaud's disease (primary Raynaud's Phenomenon) but has no beneficial effects in Secondary Raynaud's Phenomenon.
Several studies have shown that supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) found in fish oils is beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. Spanish medical researchers now report that RA patients tend to have decreased levels of n-3 PUFAs in their blood and synovial (joint) fluid. Their study involved 24 female and 15 male RA patients (median age of 64 years). Blood and joint fluid samples were collected from the patients and from a control group consisting of 28 healthy volunteers (17 male and 11 female with a median age of 61 years). All samples were analyzed to determine their fatty acid profile.
RA patients were found to have significantly lower levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (the main component of fish tissue oil) in both their blood plasma and synovial fluid. The level of alpha-linolenic acid was lower in the synovial fluid of RA patients, but not in their blood plasma. The level of docosahexaenoic acid (a major component of fish tissue oil) also tended to be lower in synovial fluids of RA patients, but not in their blood plasma.
The researchers conclude that RA patients have an abnormal fatty acid profile and a significant deficiency in certain essential fatty acids. They believe this finding may explain why supplements such as fish oils and gamma-linolenic acid (from evening primrose and borage) have been found to be beneficial in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
There is evidence that schizophrenia is associated with an abnormal metabolism of unsaturated fatty acids in both blood plasma and red blood cells. This abnormality, in turn, is associated with extraordinary low levels of long-chain unsaturated fatty acids such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and AA (arachidonic acid) in cell membranes.
Researchers at the Imperial College School of Medicine now report that fatty acid levels can be restored to normal and schizophrenia symptoms eliminated or at least vastly diminished by oral supplementation with EPA, the major component of fish oils. Their experiment involved a 30-year-old man who had suffered from schizophrenia for over 10 years. He had frequent (at least daily) hallucinations and also suffered from persecutory delusions and thought disorder. The patient was put on 2 grams/day of EPA and was evaluated for schizophrenia symptoms and blood plasma and red blood cell membrane levels of fatty acids at monthly intervals for 6 months. The results were spectacular. After 6 months the overall score for schizophrenia symptoms had dropped by a factor of 6 (an 85% reduction in severity). Episodes of delusions were completely eliminated and there was an 88% reduction in the number of hallucinatory episodes.
The remarkable clinical improvement in symptoms was associated with substantial increases in the levels of EPA, DHA and AA in red blood cell membranes and with significant increases in EPA and DHA levels in blood plasma. The researchers conclude that EPA supplementation is able to reverse the abnormal fatty acid profiles found in schizophrenics and that this reversal is associated with, and is likely to be the cause of, the clinical improvement.
A stroke has become known as a brain attack and is the third leading cause of death in this country. A stroke cuts off oxygen to the brain causing the death of vital nerve cells. There are two types of strokes. One is called an ischemic stroke where blood flow is blocked and not enough oxygen is getting to the brain. The events leading up to this type of stroke is similar to those in heart attacks. This type accounts for two thirds of all strokes. The second type of stroke is a Hemorrhaged stroke where the artery supplying blood and oxygen to the brain bursts because of weakness in the vessel wall, usually caused by high blood pressure. The nerve cells that are normally supplied by the burst artery are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. Hence reducing elevated blood pressure has become the first line of defense to avoid a hemorrhaged stroke. Large doses of marine oil (Omega 3 Fatty Acids) have been shown to reduce blood pressure and also reduce blood clot formation. Dutch researchers have confirmed a line between fish consumption (as little as one 3 ounce serving per week), and a reduced risk of stroke, Nothing marine oils ability to retard coagulation, a thickening of the blood that can lead to stroke inducing clots.
Ulcerative colitis, a common form of inflammatory bowel disease, is accompanied by an increased level of leukotriene B4 in the lining of the colon. Fish oils are known to inhibit the synthesis of leukotrienes and it has therefore been postulated that they might be beneficial in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. Researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center have just released the results of a study aimed at testing this hypothesis.
The study involved 11 male patients aged 31 to 74 years old who had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. The patients were randomized into two groups with one group receiving 15 fish oil capsules (providing 2.7 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 1.8 grams of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) daily); the other group received placebo capsules (olive oil). After 3 months on the supplements all participants underwent a 2-month wash-out period and were then assigned to the opposite treatment to what they had received during the first stage for another 3 months. Clinical evaluations of all patients were performed at the start of the study and every month thereafter.
Evaluation of the patients' clinical data at the end of the treatment periods showed a significant beneficial effect of fish oil supplementation. The mean disease severity score for the patients on fish oil declined by 56% as compared to 4% for the placebo group. Eight of the 11 patients (72%) were able to markedly reduce or totally eliminate their use of anti-inflammatory medication and steroids while taking the fish oils.
The researchers conclude that fish oil supplementation results in a marked clinical improvement of active mild to moderate ulcerative colitis.
Dr. Barbara Levine, Professor of Nutrition in Medicine at Cornell University, sounds the alarm concerning a totally inadequate intake of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) by most Americans. DHA is the building block of human brain tissue and is particularly abundant in the grey matter of the brain and the retina. Low levels of DHA have recently been associated with depression, memory loss, dementia, and visual problems.
DHA is particularly important for fetuses and infants; the DHA content of the infant's brain triples during the first three months of life. Optimal levels of DHA are therefore crucial for pregnant and lactating mothers. Unfortunately, the average DHA content of breast milk in the United States is the lowest in the world, most likely because Americans eat comparatively little fish. Making matters worse is the fact that the United States is the only country in the world where infant formulas are not fortified with DHA. This despite a 1995 recommendation by the World Health Organization that all baby formulas should provide 40 mg of DHA per kilogram of infant body weight. Dr. Levine believes that postpartum depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and low IQs are all linked to the dismally low DHA intake common in the United States. Dr. Levine also points out that low DHA levels have been linked to low brain serotonin levels which again are connected to an increased tendency to depression, suicide, and violence.
DHA is abundant in marine phytoplankton and cold-water fish and nutritionists now recommend that people consume two to three servings of fish every week to maintain DHA levels. If this is not possible, Dr. Levine suggests supplementing with 100 mg/day of DHA.