Omega-3 fatty acids protect against the development of obesity-related disease

An article published online on March 23, 2011 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals a protective effect for high omega-3 fatty acid intake against the development of diseases related to obesity, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

For the current study, Zeina Makhoul, PhD and her colleagues at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in collaboration with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, evaluated data from 330 Yup’ik Eskimos. Omega-3 fatty acid intake among the Yup’iks averages twenty times higher than most Americans.

Triglycerides, glucose, insulin, leptin and C-reactive protein (CRP, a marker of inflammation) were measured in the participants’ blood samples, and dietary questionnaire responses were analyzed for the intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from such sources as salmon, sardines and other fatty fish. Among subjects with lower blood levels of EPA and DHA, having a high body mass index was correlated with high triglycerides and C-reactive protein, both of which are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and possibly diabetes. “These results mimic those found in populations living in the Lower 48 who have similarly low blood levels of EPA and DHA,” senior author Alan Kristal, DrPH reported. “However, the new finding was that obesity did not increase these risk factors among study participants with high blood levels of omega-3 fats.”

“Because Yup’ik Eskimos have a traditional diet that includes large amounts of fatty fish and have a prevalence of overweight or obesity that is similar to that of the general U.S. population, this offered a unique opportunity to study whether omega-3 fats change the association between obesity and chronic disease risk,” stated Dr Makhoul, who is a postdoctoral researcher in the Cancer Prevention Program of the Public Health Sciences Division at the Fred Hutchinson Center. “Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons. It appeared that high intakes of omega-3-rich seafood protected Yup’ik Eskimos from some of the harmful effects of obesity.”

Although the prevalence of being overweight among the study population is similar to that of most Americans, their rate of diabetes is only half as high. “While genetic, lifestyle and dietary factors may account for this difference, it is reasonable to ask, based on our findings, whether the lower prevalence of diabetes in this population might be attributed, at least in part, to their high consumption of omega-3-rich fish,” Dr Makhoul speculated.

The researchers recommend that a clinical trial be conducted to help confirm whether increased omega-3 fatty acids reduce obesity’s effect on triglycerides and inflammation. “If the results of such a trial were positive, it would strongly suggest that omega-3 fats could help prevent obesity-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes,” Dr Makhoul concluded.

If you eat salmon make sure it is wild caught salmon. This is natural salmon which has lived in the ocean and eaten the normal salmon’s diet which contributes to the high omega-3 fats.  Unfortunately what you’ll usually find in the grocery store and at most restaurants is farm raised salmon. These fish have been raised in shallow ponds and fed corn, soy, and occasionally slaughter house leftovers.  This diet results in much lower levels of omega-3 fats and far too high levels of the inflammatory omega-6 fats.  If you look at the label it will say Atlantic Salmon or farm raised. You may also notice that the ingredients are: Salmon & pink food coloring! Yes, farm raised salmon is white, they then dye it the pink/orange salmon color.

The easiest way to increase your omeag-3 intake is through supplements.  Caution is needed here too. Many manufactures will used the oil from large, older, warm water fish.  These will accumulate much more mercury and PCB than smaller, younger, cold water fish.  Also make sure they are manufactured to pharmaceutical GMP standards. My Omega-3 supplement uses exclusively small young fish and then the oil goes through a double molecular distillation process to insure its purity and it is free from any contaminants.

Which is worse: Obesity or Smoking?

Obviously, the answer is neither. But an interesting, long term study conducted in Europe indicates that obesity is as dangerous to your health as smoking.

This study, published in the British Medical Journal and reported in theNew York Times, found that overweight young men were as likely to die by the age of 60 as light smokers and obese teens were as likely to die early as heavy smokers.

Study author, Dr. David S Williamson states, “It’s fairly dramatic when you say something is as lethal as smoking. We know of very few things from a health perspective that are as lethal as smoking.”

This study gives credence to the fact that if you allow your family to become unhealthy early in their lives, it will impact not only the quality of their life, but the length of it, also.

Dr. Kelly Sennholz

Obesity Increases Cancer Risk

A recent report from the American Institute of Cancer Research states that excess body fat is now seen as a major cause of cancer. They studied seven different cancers known to have links with obesity and estimated that obesity may actually be responsible for nearly 100,000 cancer cases annually. The researchers concluded that carrying excess body fat plays a central role in many of the most common cancers. The felt that the reason excess body fat has a link to cancer is because it lowers immune function, increases inflammation, and increases oxidative stress, which all can lead to DNA damage.

Obesity Linked to Less Brain Tissue

A new study published online in Human Brain Mapping reported that elderly individuals who were obese of overweight had significantly less brain tissue when compared to those with normal weight. The researchers stated, “The brains of obese individuals looked 16 years older than their healthy counterparts, while those of overweight individuals looked 8 years older.”

This is the first study to show physical evidence in the brain that connects overweight and obesity to cognitive decline. This may in large part be due to the fact that central obesity produces a significant amount of inflammatory products that can not only damage the entire body, but also the brain cells.
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Even modest fitness may extend lifespan

People who stay even moderately fit as they age may live longer than those who are out-of-shape, a new study suggests.

The study, of nearly 4,400 healthy U.S. adults, found that the roughly 20 percent with the lowest physical fitness levels were twice as likely to die over the next nine years as the 20 percent with the next-lowest fitness levels.

That was with factors like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes taken into account — underscoring the importance of physical fitness itself, researchers report in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

“Our findings suggest that sedentary lifestyle, rather than differences in cardiovascular risk factors or age, may explain (the) two-fold higher mortality rates in the least-fit versus slightly more fit healthy individuals,” lead researcher Dr. Sandra Mandic, of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, noted in an email to Reuters Health.

She pointed out that nearly two-thirds of the least-fit study participants were not getting the minimum recommended amount of exercise — at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, like brisk walking, on five or more days a week.

“These results emphasize the importance of improving and maintaining high fitness levels by engaging in regular physical activity,” Mandic said, “particularly in poorly fit individuals.”

The study included 4,384 middle-aged and older adults whose fitness levels were assessed during exercise treadmill tests sometime between 1986 and 2006; they were then followed for an average of about nine years.

When Mandic’s team separated the participants into five groups based on fitness levels, they found that one-quarter of the least-fit men and women had died during the study period, versus 13 percent of those who were slightly more in shape.

Among adults in the most-fit group, only 6 percent died during the follow-up period.

Overall, the five groups showed little difference in their reported exercise habits over their adult lives. Where they did differ was their activity levels in recent years.

“Since it is recent physical activity that offers protection,” Mandic said, “it is important to maintain regular physical activity throughout life.”

And since fitness is linked to longevity regardless of weight and health conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, exercise is important for all, according to Mandic.

That, she said, includes people who are thin and in generally good health.

SOURCE: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, August 2009.