Role of fish oils in health and disease

WASHINGTON, DC. Dr. Artemis Simopoulos of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health has just released a major, ground-breaking study concerning fish oils and their role in human health. Dr. Simopoulos’ 25-page report contains 211 references and is truly a gold mine of information about omega- 3 fatty acids and in particular the polyunsaturated fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in oils from fish.

Dr. Simopoulos points out that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential for human health, but that their intake has gradually declined over the years. It is believed that man evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 PUFAs of about 1:1. Today this ratio is more like 10:1 and in some societies is approaching 25:1. A relative over-abundance of omega-6 PUFAs has been implicated in excessive blood clotting, allergic and inflammatory disorders, and certain cancers. An adequate intake of omega-3 PUFAs, on the other hand, has been linked to improved cardiovascular health. A recent study concluded that a daily intake of 500 to 1000 mg of long chain omega-3 PUFAs reduces the risk of cardiovascular death in middle-aged American men by about 40%. Other studies have shown that although fish oils help prevent undesirable blood clotting reactions they do not increase bleeding time and are quite safe even for people scheduled for major surgery. Animal studies have found that fish oil supplementation markedly reduces the risk of fatal arrhythmias. Fish oils have also been found beneficial in preventing or treating hypertension, arthritis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, cancer, and certain diabetes- related complications. EPA and DHA are both essential for pregnant mothers and infants and a deficiency can retard the development of the brain and retina.

It is estimated that the optimal daily intake of EPA and DHA (total) is about 300 to 400 mg/day. The current average intake in the United States is only 50 mg EPA and 80 mg DHA per person per day indicating a massive deficiency in the American diet. Dr. Simopoulos points out that the Canadian Ministry of Health’s guidelines for fatty acid intake recommends a daily intake of 1000 to 1800 mg of omega-3 PUFAs. She cautions that fish oil supplements should always be stabilized with adequate amounts of vitamin E in order to prevent oxidation leading to rancidity. [211 references]
Simopoulos, Artemis. Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and in growth and development. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 54, 1991, pp. 438-63

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