Benefits of essential fatty acids

Essential Fatty Acids and Your Health

When it comes to the health benefits of omega-3essentialfatty acids, HSI
members don’t really need an official government seal of approval.


Nevertheless, it should be noted that the FDA now allows this
qualified claim to appear on food packaging: Omega-3 fatty acids
– eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) –
may help reduce heart disease risk. I’m not sure what took the
FDA so long to get around to allowing this claim, because it’s been
four years since they allowed a similar qualified claim for omega-3
fatty acid supplements.

In any case, at about the same time the FDA made the
announcement about food packaging last month, a newly published
study from Berlin, Germany, illustrated just how versatile omega-3
fatty acids can be in protecting the heart.

Setting the pace

In the biomedical science journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes &
Essential Fatty Acids, the Berlin researchers note that very little
clinical data is available regarding the use of omega-3 fatty acids
to treat arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).

Arrhythmias can be triggered by a number of factors, including
diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, smoking,
drug and alcohol abuse, prescription drugs and even some herbal
supplements. There are several types of arrhythmias; some cause
only mild chest discomfort, while others prompt heart attacks and

The Berlin researchers recruited 65 patients who had been
diagnosed with arrhythmias, but not coronary heart disease or heart
failure. Divided into two groups, 33 subjects received daily
supplements containing three grams of fish oil, which delivered
one gram of omega-3 per day. The other subjects took a placebo.

Blood samples were taken from all subjects throughout the six-
month trial period and for an additional follow up period of six
months. Heart rhythms were measured throughout both periods as
well. The fish oil group took no supplements during the follow up

At the end of the supplement period, researchers found the results
to be dramatic. Overall, subjects in the fish oil group showed a
decrease in several types of arrhythmias. In addition, triglyceride
and LDL cholesterol levels dropped, while HDL cholesterol went
up. In the placebo group, none of these levels changed, and
arrhythmias that were noted at the beginning of the study remained
the same.

These results alone would point to the effectiveness of omega-3
fatty acids in promoting heart health and helping to regulate
arrhythmias. But even more telling was the fact that all of the
positive benefits experienced by subjects in the fish oil group were
reversed within six months of discontinuing the supplement intake.

Standard oil

Longtime e-Alert readers know that the easiest way to increase
consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is by increasing your fish
intake; dark meat fish like mackerel, salmon, sardines, bluefish,
and swordfish contain the most concentrated sources, with an
average of 1.51 grams of omega-3s per serving. Most other fish,
including canned tuna, provide about .45 grams per serving, while
shrimp, lobster and scallops contain about .32 grams per serving.

But as the Berlin study demonstrates, fish oil supplements also
provide an effective source of omega-3. And with the disturbing
reports we’re hearing more often these days about mercury levels
in fish, supplementing with fish oil might be the safest way to go.

Earlier this year, a local television station here in Baltimore
purchased ten samples of fresh swordfish and tuna steaks from
several stores in the area, and sent the samples to a certified lab for
testing. Nine out of the ten samples had mercury levels higher than
the FDA’s recommended safe standard, and four of the samples
had mercury levels that were more than twice as high as the
standard. (And that’s assuming that you feel comfortable with the
FDA’s standard!)

Unfortunately, some fish oil supplements contain traces of mercury
and other pollutants. To insure the highest quality supplement,
look for pharmaceutical grade fish oil that’s been molecularly
distilled. The molecular distillation process effectively separates
toxic heavy metals from the oil.

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and another thing

Think fluoride in tap water is bad? That’s just ONE thing wrong
with municipal water. Here’s another, from HSI Panelist Allan
Spreen, M.D.:

“Many people think the chlorine is what makes the water pure and
safe, while (among other bad things it does) it may actually be
responsible for atherosclerosis. The chlorine can react against the
inner lining of the arterial wall and cause a small scar, which is
handled by the body by painting a coat of cholesterol over it.”

This is just one of the fascinating details you can find in Dr.
Spreen’s book “Nutritionally Incorrect: Why the American Diet is
Dangerous and How to Defend Yourself” (Woodland Publishing).
And if you happen to live in the Scottsdale/Phoenix, Arizona, area,
you have a unique opportunity this week to meet Dr. Spreen in

This coming Friday (10/29), at 4:00 PM, Dr. Spreen will be
autographing copies of “Nutritionally Incorrect” at the opening of
Granola’s, in Scottsdale (7119 Shea, Suite 101C – on the corner of
Scottsdale and Shea).

So stop by and meet Dr. Spreen. (And if you do, drop me a line
and let me know if he was wearing his Snoopy tie!)

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

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“Can N-3 PUFA Reduce Cardiac Arrhythmias? Results of a
Clinical Trial” Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes & Essential Fatty
Acids, Vol. 71, No. 3, September 2004,
“Fish Oils Can Regulate Heart Beat”,
“FDA Recognizes Health Benefits of Omega-3” Maureen
Williams, N.D., Healthnotes Newswire, 10/14/04,