CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: EFAs may be best known for their benefits to the cardiovascular system. In fact, in November 2002, the American Heart Association published recommendations that healthy adults eat at least two servings of fish per week, particularly those containing more EPA and DHA.(1) They added that those at higher risk of cardiovascular disease may need more EPA and DHA than can be consumed strictly through the diets, and that supplements may be a viable alternative. “We have found that the effects of Omega-3 fatty acids on heart disease risk is seen in relatively short periods of time,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, lead researcher. “The research shows that all omega-3 fats have cardio protective benefits, especially those in fish.”
Previous research supports the conclusion that fish oil is linked to cardio protective effects. In fact, an Italian study found that treatment with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) from fish oil significantly reduced the cumulative rate of all causes of death, nonfatal myocardial infarction and nonfatal stroke.** A recent research review concluded that only when ALA, DHA and EPA were added to the diet was there a lowered rate of sudden cardiac death and nonfatal myocardial infarction.*
BLOOD PRESSURE: The effect on BLOOD PRESSURE has been noted in multiple studies. A metaregression analysis of randomized trials on fish oil and blood pressure concluded that a high intake of fish oil may lower blood pressure, especially in older and hypertensive subjects.*
ARTHRITIS: EFAs-particularly EPA and DHA-are thought to reduce the pain and inflammation found in arthritic conditions. Typically, human inflammatory cells contain high proportions of the omega-6 AA and low levels of the omega 3s EPA and DHA. By supplementing with omega-3s, the AA in inflammatory cell membranes is partially replaced by EPA, possibly reducing inflammatory immune response. One recent research review noted fish oil supplements had beneficial effects on rheumatoid arthritis, which supports the idea that the omega-3s in fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties.
SKIN DISORDERS: Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis have shown susceptibility to treatment with EFAs, particularly GLA.
MENTAL WELLNESS: EFAs may also assist in mental health conditions. Low levels of Omega-3s are common in depression. In one study, researchers found that treatment with 1g/d of EPA improved outcomes in patients with persistent depression.* Another study found that EPA may prove an effective add-on treatment in schizophrenia.* Part of Omega-3s effectiveness in treating brain disorders may be linked to its role in neurotransmission and brain development. DHA in particular is crucial for proper brain function. Review studies have concluded that LCPUFAs are essential to the quality of growth and development of infants and children.* Even in adults, clinical research indicated LCPUFAs may improve the condition of the blood-brain barrier, keeping the brain healthier, longer.*
INFLAMMATION: There are many health conditions associated with inflammation, from cardiovascular disease and arthritis to dermatitis and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The actions of EFAs on inflammation are among their most positive attributes in many different health conditions
WOMEN'S HEALTH: EFAs, particularly GLA, have been studied for their application in treating conditions such as PMS.