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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

At Last, Some Real Evidence of Efficacy of Omega 3's

This study , at last gives credence to the view that Omega 3 oil, in the right quantity and mix, alleviates some of the worst elements of depressive illness. (Sorry about the quality, but the cached version is free).

There have been a number of previous studies that were inconclusive from a scientific standpoint, but such interventions were viewed as relatively benign, except where high levels were consumed, when gastro-intestinal problems ensued.. The difference here is that the effect was dose related, with a high EPA to DHA level. And in a relatively low dose. It was also a high quality study conducted as a double blinded placebo trial. This is the 'gold standard' we all seek to give proof to a hypothesis. In addition, the cohort was suffering from major depression, not the "I'm feeling a bit low", type, but full blown serious depression, that can challenge life itself. Patients with co morbid anxiety symptoms were not shown to improve, however, so this group derived little benefit from the trial.

It ticks every box of study protocols, It was long term, of a size to be significant, but most of all the scientists involved went to great lengths to ensure even the placebo tasted the same as the genuine oil capsule. Sure, it was supported by the makers, in that they supplied product, but there is no patent on fish oils, so no real axe for them to grind, other than the satisfaction of proving a hypothesis, long held anecdotaly, but always never quite proven categorically. It is also significant that the cohort using other antidepressant drugs in addition to Omega 3's also derived little benefit.

Omega 3's have long been associated with a number of health benefits, quite numerous in fact. They are viewed as an anti-coagulant, an anti-hypertensive and have been associated with pain relief in arthritis. A number of studies for all uses have been undertaken, but most owe their origin to the study of nutrition in the Inuit of Greenland in the 1970's, when it was found that the Eskimo (Inuit) consumed large quantities of polyunsaturated fatty acids from their diet of fish. They also consumed even larger quantities of saturated fats as well, but that's another story. This diet even if confounded slightly by this, did seem to confer a protection from heart disease, stroke and hypertension. Consequently these long chain fatty acids became a 'must' for health.There are a few downsides, perhaps with consuming very large quantities, in that those prone to bleeding, say into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke), or with Type 2 Diabetes could worsen their symptoms by consumption, but on the whole it is relatively benign and is attributed with health improvements.

It is important that the EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) content is somewhat higher than is found in most proprietary capsules with a ratio of 1050mg/d EPA to 150mg/d of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) so some addition of EPA to a standard capsule regimen may be needed. But pure EPA capsules to enable this are now widely available. I also, personally feel, that 8 weeks is quite a short time for full benefit to be derived, as I found, certainly with my arthritis that real relief was not felt for almost three months. but that is my anecdotal experience. It seems, again anecdotaly, that the lessening of depressive episodes that I had been having, was more a side effect of taking Omega 3 for arthritic pain. The underlying problem of osteoarthritis, of joint deterioration, is of course not improved by this regimen, it is merely a means of pain control without the use of NSAID's.

Any one wishing to follow this protocol should engage with a medical practitioner, if at all possible, prior to commencement, and ensure that it does not, reduce or enhance the effect, of any medication already in use. This is especially important for people on Warfarin or Heparin protocols as the anticoagulant properties of Omega 3's can be pronounced in this cohort.

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