How Fish Oils Add Years to Your Life (and Take Years Off Your Face!)

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There seems
to be no end to the benefits of fish oils. Not only are they said
to boost heart, brain and joint health, but they also prevent cancer,
eye disease and bone problems.

Last week,
a new study suggested they could assist the body against premature
ageing. But how do you separate the facts from the hype? PETA BEE
asked the experts…

WHAT’S SO
SPECIAL ABOUT FISH OILS?

Fish oils are
a type of polyunsaturated fat — a ‘healthy’ fat. Unlike saturated
animal fats, they don’t raise your cholesterol levels, but are known
to have a positive effect on health.

Polyunsaturated
fats are divided into two groups of what are called Essential Fatty
Acids (or EFAs) — omega-3 and omega-6.

Both omegas
are essential in helping to regulate blood clotting, body temperature,
blood pressure and the immune system; they are also needed to make
prostaglandins, important hormone-like chemicals in the body. The
only way we can get them is through our diet.

Omega-3 has
particular benefits, producing vital substances such as DHA (docosahexaenoic
acid), thought to play a key role in the development of brain and
cognitive function, and EPA ( eicosapentaenoic acid), vital for
brain health.

The richest
source of omega-3s are fish oils — salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna
and herring.

While most
Britons consume more than enough omega-6 oils (found in most edible
oils, but particularly sunflower and corn, as well as meat), they
are deficient in omega-3.

WILL THEY
PROTECT MY HEART?

There have
been a number of studies suggesting fish oils boost heart health,
but the most compelling evidence was a study last year published
in the Journal Of The American College Of Cardiology.

Led by Dr Carl
Lavie, of the Ochsner Cardiology Clinic in Louisiana, the study
showed omega-3 oils help to prevent blood clotting and regulate
or lower blood pressure.

The strongest
heart-protective effect is for patients with established cardiovascular
disease, the study found.

‘This isn’t
just hype — we now have tremendous and compelling evidence from
very large studies, some dating back 20 and 30 years,’ Dr Lavie
said.

Under guidelines
issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
(NICE), doctors are encouraged to prescribe supplements to patients
after they have had a heart attack to prevent repeat attacks.

WHAT ABOUT
MY BRAIN?

There has been
great interest in the fish oil effect on the brain — both in preventing
disease and boosting brain power.

Studies have
shown, for instance, that DHA can reduce the formation of plaques
in the brain; these have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and
dementia. Too little omega-3 has been linked to mild depression,
and there is some evidence that fish oils may help here.

DHA has been
shown to boost foetal brain development.

However, parents
who feed their children fish oil supplements before exams might
be wasting their money, as the evidence for fish oils boosting intelligence
and exam performance is tenuous.

WHAT ELSE
CAN THEY DO?

Eating oily
fish once a week has been shown to protect against age-related macular
degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in the older generation.

They might
also be helpful in the fight against some forms of cancer.

Last year,
Professor John Witte, from the University of California, suggested
a high intake of omega-3s reduced men’s risk of prostate cancer
by about 60 per cent. There is some evidence, too, that a regular
consumption of omega-3s can help prevent bowel cancer.

WILL THEY
HELP ME LOOK YOUNGER?

Last week researchers
from the University of California suggested omega-3s — whether from
supplements or fish — helped cells in
the body live longer. When they studied heart disease patients,
they found the more omega-3 the subjects ate, the slower the damage
to the DNA in their cells.

That, in turn,
meant better protection against inflammation and the ageing process.

Read
the rest of the article

January
27, 2010

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