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omega-3 fatty acids

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Parental Omega-3 Deficiency Can Affect Offspring

Anxiety and learning problems potentially worse for children of Omega-3 deficient parents


Dietary choices by parents may affect their adolescent's behaviour and cognitive performance. Using a rodent model, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that the adolescents of parents who were low in omega-3 fatty acids had more anxiety, hyperactivity and learning difficulties than adolescents whose parents had sufficient dietary omega-3’s. The nutritionally deficient parents exhibited the symptoms but the effect was stronger in their adolescent offspring.

Positive Tip: Ensure you’re getting enough omega-3’s from natural sources like ground flaxseed. Both you and your children will benefit.

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Too Many Omega-3s May Not Be Good

Too many omega-3 fatty acids may boost the risk of prostate cancer.

Are you taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements or eating lots of fatty fish because of their anti-inflammatory properties? Researchers have found that men who consumed the most fatty fish or took the most fish oil supplements experienced a 43% increased risk for prostate cancer compared to those eating the least. They also observed a 71% increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer--the kind that is often fatal. 

PositiveTip: Men in particular should consider the potential risks of eating lots of fatty fish or taking fish oil supplements.

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Value of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Questioned

Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation found of no benefit in diabetics.

Many people take omega-3 fatty acid supplements hoping to reduce their risk of adverse cardiovascular events. However, recent research suggests that these supplements may have little value. A group of 12,500 well-controlled diabetic patients who received 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acid or a placebo demonstrated no differences after 6 years of follow-up. These findings are consistent with a meta-analysis of patients, with or without diabetes, showing no benefit to supplementation.

The Obvious Assumption

There are two kinds of dietary information: simple and complex. Simple information categorizes everything into a few groups, either stigmatizing the bad groups or promoting a particular good group. Complex information breaks everything down into multiple options that require a chemistry/physiology degree to understand.

This seems especially true when trying to understand fatty acids: their intake, their functions in the body, and their proper balance in the diet. Let’s try a middle ground – a little complex information without too much chemistry and a little simple information without too much stigmatizing.

Supplements Fail Again

The British Medical Journal just published results from a study on how B-Vitamins and fish oil affect several cardiovascular diseases. The outcomes were disappointing.

Researchers studied 2501 individuals who were sick to begin with. All had experienced a stroke, heart attack or unstable chest pains. The study involved over 400 research physicians throughout France. 

People were randomly assigned to one of four groups, with various daily treatments:

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Omega-3 Supplements Do Little to Slow Cognitive Decline

Contrary to popular opinion, omega-3 supplements did not slow cognitive decline in Alzheimer patients.

A randomized trial gave either a placebo or 2 grams a day of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to about 400 adults with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer Disease (AD) for 18 months. At the end of treatment there was no difference between the groups, showing that these supplements did not slow the rate of cognitive decline. 

PositiveTip: DHA supplementation probably results in little improvement among patients with AD.

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Omega-3 Supplementats Not Beneficial

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements from fish, plants or both show no significant benefit.

There is growing interest in the possibility of reducing the risk of heart disease by supplementing with fish-based omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) or plant-derived alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Using a multi-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 4837 older men with heart disease, researchers found during an almost four year follow-up that none of the supplements from fish or plants showed any significant advantage over the placebo.

PositiveTip: Including adequate plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids from dietary sources (nuts, vegetable oils) will not hurt you, but they are probably not a magic bullet for preventing heart disease.