For years, it's been an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Now researchers show that fish may produce the same results by improving cardiovascular health, reducing inflammation, and slowing the aging process. While whole food still reigns as the best source of nutrients, researchers show that omega oil supplements hold value for us, as well. Supplements have the benefit of being purified in most instances, perhaps another benefit in the toxic world we live in.
Most people, whether healthy or having cardiovascular disease (CVD), would benefit from regular consumption of oily fish, concluded speakers at the EuroPRevent 2012 meeting. While eating whole fish undoubtedly offers the optimum approach for increasing omega-3 intakes in both primary and secondary prevention, delegates heard, supplements have a major role to play in increasing omega-3 intakes for people who do not like fish.
The symposium "A fish a day keeps the doctor away" ¹ centred on the cardiovascular disease (CVD) benefits of the long chain highly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in the flesh of oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, trout and sardines. In the round table debate speakers attempted to unravel the current confusion where initial studies showed eating fish/taking omega 3 supplements delivered CVD benefits, but more recent studies with supplements failed to reproduce these effects. "Omega-3 fatty acids are really important to human health, whether you're talking about CVD, brain or immune health. Heath professionals have a key role to play in educating the public about the beneficial effects of including fish in their diets," said Philip Calder, a metabolic biochemist and nutritionist from the University of Southampton, UK.
The latest European Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice, also launched at the EuroPRevent 2012 meeting, recommend that people should eat fish at least twice a week, one meal of which should be oily fish. "It's important that health professionals give clear guidance around the need for patients to take 1g of omega-3 a day to achieve any beneficial effects. Eating oily fish may prove more beneficial than taking capsules of omega-3. "This is because fish contain all sorts of other nutrients like vitamin D, selenium and iodine that may also be beneficial against CVD. And we don't have the final proof that the benefits from eating fish come from the omega-3," said Daan Kromhout, from Wageningen University, The Netherlands. "Fish, it needs to be remembered, don't provide a total panacea against CVD. As well as consuming fish, people need to eat healthy diets, not smoke and be physically active."
The mechanism of action of Omega-3 fatty acids Omega-3 fatty acids, explained Calder, can exert a variety of actions on cell physiology and function. "They're anti-inflammatory and might therefore decrease the inflammatory processes within the vessel wall, which are recognised as major contributors to atherosclerosis," he said. Indeed, recent studies by Calder and colleagues showed that the incorporation of EPA into advanced plaques was associated with a decreased expression of various matrix metalloproteinases (MMPS), proteins which have been implicated in plaque cap thinning and increased vulnerability to rupture. Omega-3 fatty acids are also known to have an anti-arrhythmic effect. The presence of omega-3 fatty acids in cardiomyocyte membrane phospholipids decreases electrical excitability and modulates the activity of ion channels (e.g. sodium, potassium and calcium, effects that are claimed to promote electrical stability in the cell and prevent arrhythmias. It is also known that omega-3 fatty acids are potent triglyceride lowering agents.