Omega-3s Enhance the Body and Mind, More Studies Show

PUFAs may lower one's heart rate and risk of sudden death as well as slow cognitive decline in older age
January 17, 2006

Recent studies show that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) may lower one's heart rate and risk of sudden death as well as slow cognitive decline in older age, reports the December 2005 PUFA Newsletter.


A meta-analysis of several studies confirmed that fish oil, which is high in long-chain omega-3 PUFAs, lowers heart rate. As a result, modest intakes of fish oil, such as would be obtained from eating fatty fish twice a week, may also lower risk of cardiac mortality.


More findings from the Chicago Health and Aging Project showed that older subjects consuming fish (long-chain omega-3 PUFAs) at least weekly had significantly slower cognitive decline compared with non-fish eaters. This is consistent with previous observational studies.


A 40 percent lower risk of sudden death in women aged 50 years with the highest intakes of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - a plant-based omega-3 PUFA -- was observed in another study. This was a heartening outcome as intake of omega-3s from fish is low in many western countries, noted PUFA Newsletter Editor Joyce Nettleton, DSc, RD.


Other findings reported in the December 2005 PUFA Newsletter reinforce the importance of providing preterm infants adequate DHA - a long-chain omega-3 PUFA - immediately after birth. Observational studies associated tuna consumption with a lower risk of dry eye syndrome and fatty fish consumption with reduced risk of asthma in children of asthmatic mothers.


"It is remarkable that so little fatty fish consumption, at least monthly, was associated with such striking findings in the asthma study," Nettleton said.


Go Fish!

Recognizing the benefits of Omega-3 in the diet of the elderly, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) this month launched a joint effort to promote the health benefits associated with including fish in a healthy, balanced diet.


The "Go Fish!" program theme is modeled after the popular card game and will provide thousands of MOWAA members, volunteers, clients, donors and staff a different "playing card" each week that will include recipe and meal preparation ideas, health and nutrition information and facts about fish.  The first card, the King of Hearts, is available upon request.


"We know that many health benefits are derived when seafood consumption is increased and are pleased with the opportunity to share this information with our members because of our partnership with NFI," said Enid Borden, CEO of MOWAA.  "It is our desire to promote better nutrition for seniors we serve and encourage them through our programs to put more fish in their diets."


NFI President John Connelly said, "Though seafood consumption is on the rise, Americans still only eat less than half the recommended servings of fish per week. Our partnership with Meals on Wheels will help the seafood community reach a broad group of Americans who need accurate information about why fish is healthy as well as techniques to handle and prepare these meals."


As detailed in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and new food guide pyramid, the federal government recommends at least two servings of fish or seafood per week. The guidelines specifically mention the tremendous health benefits of fish and shellfish -- such as omega-3 fatty acids -- that can "reduce the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease."


Studies also show that fish is "brain food."  Research published in the Archives of Neurology conducted by the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging found dietary intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids and weekly consumption of fish may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Numerous studies show that omega- 3s also protect against coronary heart disease and stroke and aid in the neurological development of unborn babies.





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