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The Fats of Life: Omega3 Fatty Acids

How can anything with fat in it be good?

Although all fat may seem bad, fat in seafood is wonderful! Seafood fats can help prevent heart disease and some studies indicate these fats may offer some hope for people with diabetes, cancer and even arthritis. All this is due to the omega-3 fatty acid in fish a revolutionary health discovery.

Whats so special about fish fat? What makes it so important in our bodys battle between good and bad fats?

Fats differ according to the kinds and amounts of fatty acids they contain. Eating too much of certain kinds of fatty acids, especially the saturated sort, raises blood cholesterol levels and encourages heart disease. Unsaturates from fish, however, can actually lower blood cholesterol levels.

Omega-3s work in special ways, many of which scientists have only recently begun to understand. They discourage clogged arteries by changing the pattern of fats in the blood. Omega-3s make the platelets in the blood less likely to stick together and cause a heart attack. Omega-3s also have positive effects directly on the heart itself, making its rhythmic beat more stable. All these effects lower an individuals heart disease risk.

Last year, a study from England reported that men who had survived a heart attack and who then began eating rich fish, lived longer than similar heart patients who did not eat fish regularly. In other research, people who had their arteries surgically unclogged had less re-clogging of their blood vessels afterward when they consumed oils found in fish.

While most of the initial excitement about the positive benefits of omega-3s centered on their role in preventing heart disease, scientists have found many other exciting potential benefits. Omega-3s influence events going on in blood cells, ateries and veins, liver, skin and other tissues. They also subdue some of our immune responses, offering potential benefits in arthritis, psoriasis and asthma. Scientists even speculate that omega-3s were shown to be important in the development of nervous tissue in the brain and eye. Omega-3s are concentrated in these tissues, be we do not understand fully how they function. Babies fed breast milk have omega-3s in their tissues whereas those fed formula without omega-3s have almost none. Work with premature infants suggests that it is important for pregnant women to eat fish regularly to ensure their babies obtain omega-3 fatty acids for optimum brain and eye development.

The evidence makes it clear that we will benefit from having omega-3s on duty at all times. They key is to equip ourselves by eating fish, especially rich fish, routinely at least twice a week.

Brain Food

A new study reaffirms what most of us already knew: eating fish keeps you healthy in body and mind.

A study by researchers at the University of Guelph in the Toronto area discovered that the fatty acids found in high concentration in many fish species may help to ward off Alzheimers.

The researchers found that Alzheimers patients (as well as other elderly sufferers with other cognitive impairments) had lower levels of DHA (a type of fatty acid) in their blood. DHA and other Omega-3 fatty acids are found abundantly in tuna, trout and salmon, as well as most other seafoods. The fatty acids have already been found to reduce ailments such as depression, heart disease and ADD (attention deficit disorder).

Julie Conquer, director of the research unit, suggested that we not only try to increase fish consumption in our elderly population, but also the population at large. She noted that nursing homes should tailor their meal plans to reflect the findings on fish and the apparent necessity for DHA and other fatty acids.

Conquer said, Given that our research indicates that decreased levels of DHA also appear to accompany cognitive impairment with aging, we think this is a sign we should all be eating more fish. We agree.


More Good Health News for Women & Fish

The associated press reported recently that a study of about 80,000 American woman has shown that eating fish in modest amounts may significantly reduce the risk of the most common type of stroke. . .

The star of the show, of course, are Omega-3 fatty acids. These beneficial acids are thought to lower levels of blood fat linked to heart disease and to keep blood from clotting. Fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines are especially rich in Omega-3s.

In the most recent study which took place at the Womens Health Hospital in Boston, researchers from Harvard University found that eating fish regularly was linked with reductions in the risk for ischemic strokes, which are clot-related and account for about 83 percent of all strokes in the US.

Women who ate about 4 ounces (110 grams) of fish two to four times weekly cut their risk of ischemic stroke by 48 percent. Though slightly higher risk reductions were found in women who ate fish five or more times weekly, there were relatively few women in that group. Risk reductions, though not statistically significant, were also found even in those who ate fish once a week or less.

Mounting evidence about fish-linked cardiovascular benefits led the American Heart Association to include eating two servings of fish a week in its updated dietary recommendations last fall.