This is a chart from a brochure from the Ascenta Company.
AN ESKIMO FAMILY. Tenderness and responsibility in their treatment of children is a virtue of the Eskimo which binds them closer to the brotherhood of civilized peoples. Deutsch: Inuit-Familie (1917) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“It started way back in the seventies” – Greenland was Danish, and the Inuit lived there. They had a very low rate of coronary disease, and it was strange that the Inuit, living on a fatty diet, had low heart disease. At that time, many of them lived on fishing from seals, and ate a high fat diet. We believed that a high fat diet increased cholesterol. In 1970, we went up and collected blood samples (interview is divided into four video segments).
The blood samples had a low level of cholesterol, but not so low to explain the 10 fold reduction in heart disease. The samples were also analysed for fatty acids, and found peaks in the analysis they had never seen before. Dr. Dyerberg went to Minnestota to visit Dr. Holm, who advised that the peaks were EPA and DHA. At the same time, other research had shown that Omega-6 could produce prostoglandins, and they hypothesized that the Omega-3s produced other prostoglandins. We found that EPA produced prostoglandins that did not promote blood clotting.
Of course, the Inuit did not eat their food for health, they were eating the only food (seafood) that was available. In the sea, Omega-3s exist in algae and krill, and fish taken from cold water have a lot of Omega-3.
Fat is not just fat. Fat does provide fuel, but in the sea, Omega-3 fats are favoured.
[Several other Dyerberg videos are available at http://www.iHealthTube.com ]
Greenland eskimo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dr. Jorn Dyerberg was one of two Danish doctors who discovered (in the 1970s) that Eskimos in Greenland, with low rates of heart disease, have much more omega-3 in their blood than Danes in Greenland, with normal rates of heart disease. This was the beginning of the great interest in omega-3s. In the video, he talks about the correlation between non-fasting triglyceride levels and heart problems, and lowering triglyceride levels with fish oil. He also discusses reducing inflammation, and a major study that followed heart attack survivors and the impact of taking fish oil supplements.
He has expressed skepticism regarding the benefits of ALA intake (eg flaxseed oil). In terms of biological effects of DHA and EPA, Dr. Dyerberg said there are many. “We don’t know of any specific biological effects of ALA,” he said. “Tissue experiments give you an ALA concentration of zero. This omega-3 is either burnt or converted,” he said. “And the conversion is low.” “If we want the benefits of omega-3, we have to eat them as long chain,” he said, referring to EPA and DHA.
Image via Wikipedia
The controversy continues regarding the best EPA to DHA ratio in fish oil supplements. Google search results confirm that there have been no significant scientific studies to date that can help resolve this issue. The ideal ratio likely varies from person to person. Some particular health problems (like depression) can respond to high EPA supplementation.
A comment in one forum states that “humans convert roughly 5% of ingested ALA to EPA and 1-2% to DHA, for a 5:1 or 5:2 ratio”. This assertion is not supported by a reference, and there other studies that indicate that the ALA conversion rate varies by gender and by individual. As noted in a previous post, there is also some support for ALA supplementation to help prevent type 2 diabetes.
As noted previously, I started by chance with a high DHA:EPA liquid supplement, and found that my fatigue levels increased. Switching to a high EPA:DHA product seemed to alleviate the fatigue symptoms, and my triglyceride levels improved very significantly.
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.
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An article in the Globe & Mail on March 30,2001 refers to a recent 15 year study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition of the intake of omega-3 and the risk of dying from inflammation-related disease in healthy older adults. The article goes on to discuss foods that may help reduce inflammation, including Omega-3s, anti-oxidants, monsaturated fats, and phytochemicals.
The link to the article is
Women with the highest intake of Omega-3 fats per day (1.1 to 4.7 g total) were 44% less likely to die from non-cancer, non-cardiovascular disease. The reduced death rate for men was less significant, although positive, especially for ALA (flax seed) intake.
The article discusses the theory that inflammatory diseases are linked to an overactive immune system, that “diet plays a role in easing symptoms of inflammation”, and that some foods help reduce inflammation.
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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.