Category Archives: Ideas for Health

Krill Oil Better Than Regular Fish Oils?


Antarctic krill Euphausia superba.

Antarctic krill Euphausia superba. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More ‘traditional’ omega-3 supplements – such as cod liver oil and fish oil – on the market are based on omega-3 fatty acids bound to triglycerides or bound as ethyl esters, whereas krill oil contains a large number of omega-3 fatty acids bound to phospholipids, stated the researchers

Several previous studies have investigated krill oil, and there is growing evidence to suggest that the molecular form of omega-3 fatty acids may be of importance in their biological functions, as well as in the distribution of the omega-3 in the body. Previous research demonstrated that, when given to rats in equal amounts, krill oil and fish oil had different effects, with krill oil resulting in stronger effects in relation to metabolic syndrome.

A detailed description of the fatty acid profile of krill oil has revealed a high content of phospholipid omega-3 fatty acid, and may aid future product development. The study, published in Lipids provides a characterization of the phospholipid fatty acids profile of krill oil, revealing a high presence of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. “Krill oil provides the majority of its omega-3 fatty acids in the form of phospholipids, whereas other common marine oils contain omega-3 fatty acids in the form of triglycerides or ethyl esters,” wrote the researchers, led by Bjørn Winther at the University of Oslo.

The study was partially funded by Aker BioMarine ASA and was performed by researchers at the University of Oslo, in co-operation with researchers from Aker BioMarine. The krill oil tested was Superba Krill Oil, provided by Aker BioMarine ASA.

Source: Lipids
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1007/s11745-010-3472-6
“Elucidation of Phosphatidylcholine Composition in Krill Oil Extracted from Euphausia superba”
Authors: B. Winther, N. Hoem. K. Berge, L. Reubsaet

In Praise of Flaxseed Oil


Yellow Flaxseed

A recent article in the Globe & Mail – “Fish and flaxseed may prevent diabetes – are Omega-3s miracle fats?” [Leslie Beck, May 25, 2011] reports two studies from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The first study found that in older men and women, high levels of DHA and EPA (combined) reduced the risk of developing diabetes, and high levels of ALA reduced the risk even more. The second study found that ALA intake strongly protected against diabetes, while Omega-3 intake from fish did not have an effect. This may support a link between ALA and improved insulin sensitivity. On the other hand, DHA and EPA are linked to reduced blood clots, inflammation and improved heart health. The article also suggests that eating fried fish had no health improvement effects than baked or broiled fish. Since plant-based omega-3s (ALA) can also be converted in the body to DHA and EPA (though the conversion rate is said to be low, and variable), ALA intake can also be expected to have similar heart benefits. I find that eating freshly ground flaxseed with granola in the morning (1/4 cup) is reasonably tasty, and the fibre in flaxseed is also supposed to be beneficial. However, I find the taste of straight flaxseed oil (by the spoon, or in salad dressings) not to my liking at all. To increase my flaxseed oil intake, I have taken to gel capsules, which are relatively inexpensive.

Flaxseed oil oxidizes very quickly over time and when heated. I suggest grinding  a small amount of fresh flaxseed just before eating. While ground flaxseed has a pleasant, nutty taste, baked flaxseed products will likely provide reduced Omega-3 benefits because of the exposure to heat while baking. Thus the suggestions in the New York Times article on increasing flaxseed intake (see link below) may not be the best for increasing ALA intake, although the flaxseed fibre is still beneficial, and unaffected by heat.

Omega-3 Improves Vision


A blue iris. A human eye.

Image via Wikipedia

The entries in this blog include both reports of scientific studies, and also unsubstantiated, anecdotal reports. While I am convinced that high omega-3 intake is beneficial, it is encouraging to see positive results. My ophthalmologist recently informed me that I should have my prescription changed because my visual acuity had noticeably improved since 2 years ago. In addition, while I still had some indications of early peripheral diabetic retinopathy, that problem has improved since my exam two years previous. His comment was that, whatever I am doing, I should keep doing it.

His explanation for the problem was that diabetes can damage blood vessel walls, particularly since excess sugar thickens the blood. Reduced blood flow (particularly in small blood vessels) then causes the eye to grow new blood vessels to try to remedy the problem, thus interfering with the function of the retina.

There is no test or standard that I am aware of to measure the appropriate amount of blood viscosity, but some of the important health benefits of  omega-3s may result from their blood-thinning effect (including reduced strokes and heart attacks). Anecdotally, I can confirm that I often noticed (while using home blood glucose testing strips) that my blood viscosity varied significantly, and would be significantly thicker on some mornings. Since I have started on a high intake omega-3 intake, my blood now seems to flow consistently better.

I have already reported that my triglyceride levels are within normal, which is the main recognized benefit of omega-3 intake, an impact which occurred within a few months. Other benefits are less dramatic and take longer to become noticeable. I am certainly pleased to have improved vision, and further positive reinforcement to continue on with omega-3s.

Omega-3 Intake improves Kidney Health for Type-1 & Type-2 Diabetes


Overview of the most significant possible symp...

Image via Wikipedia

In a new study, kidney function was improved in type-1 diabetics with the highest average intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), according to findings published in Diabetes Care. The results are based on data from 1,436 participants in a trial including people aged between 13 and 39. Diabetics are known to be at increased risk of kidney disease.

The researchers measured the excretion of the protein albumin in urine. Albumin is the most abundant protein in human serum and in people with kidney problems the protein leaks from the kidney into the urine. A level of 30 mg per 24 hours is reportedly representative of sufficient function. According to the results, people with a higher average intake of omega-3s had albumin excretion levels 22.7 mg per 24 hours lower than people with the lowest average intakes of omega-3.

Results of a double-blind placebo-controlled trial from Hong Kong published earlier this year suggested that supplements of omega-3 fatty acids may improve the kidney health of diabetics. In this study, the researchers evaluated kidney function by measuring creatine levels, with high levels indicative of damage to the functioning of nephrons in the kidney. “Our results showed a significant decrease in serum creatinine level after fish-oil supplement in Type 2 diabetes mellitus patients,” stated the researchers in Diabetic Medicine (Vol. 27, pp. 54-60). “Prior studies have [also] suggested that fish-oil supplement has renoprotective effects in diabetes mellitus,” they added.

Therapy for Thinner Blood


old aspirin tins

The Economist ran an article in the December 11, 2010 edition entitled “Wonder Drug” regarding aspirin.  The article noted that aspirin has benefits as a blood-thinning drug, and is prescribed in doses of around 50 mg to reduce deaths from stroke and heart attack.  The results of a new study indicated that aspirin also reduced the risk of death by cancer by over 20%.   However, there was a long latency period before the risk reduction took effect, varying from 5 to 15 years.  Higher doses did not confer additional benefit.  There was a small risk of ulcers and dangerous stomach bleeding.  The therapy was very cost-effective, with a 100 day supply sometimes costing less than a dollar.

Omega-3 supplements are also supposed to have a blood-thinning effect, as well as many other therapeutic benefits, particularly relieving depression.  Flax seed supplementation is relatively inexpensive too, but fish oil supplements can be expensive.  I prefer Omega-3 supplements since they are essential nutrients and have few side effects.  However, aspirin therapy is very cost-effective, and would certainly have to be considered as a less-expensive alternative to Omega-3 supplements, although the increased risk of side-effects also has to be taken into account.

I was interested to note the fact that the study carried on for a long enough period to show benefits even after a long latency period.  This latency effect may also apply to some of the benefits of Omega-3 supplementation.  However, in my experience, the lowering of triglyceride values was noticeable after just several months of taking supplements.

Fish Oil – Best DHA to EPA Ratio?


Flying fish shortly after take-off

Image via Wikipedia

I recently switched from fish oil capsules to liquid fish oil from a bottle.  While I found the capsules very convenient, a friend suggested that taking fish oil by the tablespoon is relatively palatable, and much less expensive.  I have also switched to fish oils with higher concentrations of the Omega-3s, but I noticed that the bottled fish oil comes in various DHA to EPA ratios.  I was unsure about which ratio to choose, although I suspected that DHA is more important, and required in the body in greater quantities than EPA.  This is because it amounts to 25% to 30% of the human brain.  It turns out that there are alternate theories regarding this question. I have decided that fish oil with a high EPA ratio works better for me, although I find the taste of products with a EPA ratio above 3:1 are not as easy to swallow.

The  optimum ratio likely varies from person to person, depending on a person’s metabolism and nutrition history, as well as any ongoing health problems.  See for example the posting at  http://www.buzzle.com/articles/epa-dha-ratio.html, which notes that high DHA intake may be helpful for certain diseases.   “Research has shown that fish oil and fish oil supplements that are high in DHA and relatively low in EPA had a tendency to lower the inflammatory cytokines in the body, such as IL-6 and IL-1β. These are the cytokines that are associated with neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases in humans. Furthermore, it has been seen that the brain normally contains very high amounts of DHA but practically no EPA. Furthermore, there are certain neurological conditions that are associated with very low levels of DHA in the body. These include dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, bipolarity disorders, etc.”   On the other hand, a high EPA ratio may be appropriate for conditions like diabetes.  The posting notes that  “it has been found that EPA is a precursor to DHA. This is the reason why ensuring a sufficient level of EPA on a diet containing neither EPA nor DHA is harder for absorption because of the extra metabolic work required to synthesize EPA and because of the use of EPA to metabolize DHA. There are also certain medical conditions, like diabetes or certain allergies that may significantly limit the body’s capacity for metabolizing EPA from alpha linoleic acid.”

Jason Kaczynski has many Fish oil Ezine articles on the Ezine articles website.  His article on the EPA to DHA Ratio [http://ezinearticles.com/?EPA-DHA-Ratio—Whats-an-Ideal-EPA-and-DHA-Ratio-in-a-Fish-Oil-Supplement?&id=2424474] states that DHA omega-3 fatty acids are recognized as a physiologically essential nutrient in the brain and retina. They are required in high concentrations for providing optimal mental performance (cognitive function, memory, focus, learning ability, etc.) and visual acuity.  EPA (even though it’s not as important as DHA) plays an important role in regulating blood flow and maintaining a healthy heart and cardiac system.  As far as the EPA DHA ratio of a fish oil supplement goes, aim to look for a brand that has about 2 to 3 times more DHA and EPA.  (DHA intake is linked to decreased periodontal disease – see http://www.diet-blog.com/10/stop_gum_disease_with_omega-3s.php.)

However, an alternate post supports a high EPA ratio, particularly with regard to the issue of alleviating depression  [ http://www.depressionforums.org/forums/topic/21756-fishoil-omega-3-best-ratio-of-epa-to-dha-for-lifting-moods/%5D  which states the following:  “The alternative view is that the optimal EPA to DHA ratio is 7:1. This is claimed by some websites, and they claim that it is proven that this ratio is more effective.    “Many healthcare professionals recommend this 7:1 ratio, which is the highest in the industry.”  “A competition mechanism means DHA prevents EPA being completely assimilated and used (Horrobin, 2002), while by contrast, the body can transform EPA into DHA as required. ”  “It appears that EPA – rather than DHA – is beneficial for depression. Because DHA and EPA are relatively small in [molecular] structure and may compete with one other for binding sites [in the cell membranes], Horrobin (personal comunication) suggests that mixed EPA/DHA formulations may be much less effective than pure EPA preparations contaning the same absolute amount of EPA.”

I do take very high amounts of fish oil, so my experience may not be typical.  However, my initial experience has been that I noticed increased fatigue while taking fish oil with a low ratio of  EPA to DHA of 675 to 1350 mg per tsp. These days I am taking fish oil with an EPA to DHA ratio of 1640 to 820 mg per tsp (2:1 ratio, 3 tablespoons per day, Trophic Pure essential High Potency EPA Fish Oil), and 3 tablespoons of the Ascenta NutraSea HP (3:1 ratio).

Increasing Omega-3 Intake Gradually


Flax

Flax (Photo credit: bwmaddog21)

As noted, there are several ways of boosting Omega-3 intake, including increasing salmon consumption, taking lots of fish oil (up to 10 g per day), and up to 1/2 cup of fresh ground flax seeds (about 20 g of LNA) (with almond milk and blueberries).  However, as with any change to your diet, it is preferable to phase in the change gradually, so as not to shock your digestive system, which can cause, among other things, flatulence.  Consider starting with with tablespoon of flax seed, and/or one gram of fish oil, and then gradually increasing over three or four weeks to give your body time to adjust.