Thursday, August 18, 2011

Omega-3 Reduces Anxiety and Inflammation in Healthy Students, Study Suggests

This is typical of the narrow perspective that typifies believers in popular nostrums. They show no awareness that by inducing one broadly beneficial effect they may also unleash damaging effects elsewhere. Anxiety has its place and suppressing it could (for instance) lead to more risky behavior. And that sort of thing is not just theory. In the same journal there was another recent study which concluded that What Is Good for the Heart May Not Be Good for the Prostate. And what about the finding that high intake of Omega 3 is linked to increased risk of colon cancer??

And since Omega 3 is such a popular religion, there must be thousands of studies of it underway at any one time. In those circumstances, you will get some false positive findings by chance alone. And the effects described below were quite small in absolute terms and hence shaky.

Only long-term controlled studies using a wide range of health indicators could offer anything like secure conclusions

A new study gauging the impact of consuming more fish oil showed a marked reduction both in inflammation and, surprisingly, in anxiety among a cohort of healthy young people.

The findings suggest that if young participants can get such improvements from specific dietary supplements, then the elderly and people at high risk for certain diseases might benefit even more.

The findings by a team of researchers at Ohio State University were just published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. It is the latest from more than three decades of research into links between psychological stress and immunity.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have long been considered as positive additives to the diet. Earlier research suggested that the compounds might play a role in reducing the level of cytokines in the body, compounds that promote inflammation, and perhaps even reduce depression.

Psychological stress has repeatedly been shown to increase cytokine production so the researchers wondered if increasing omega-3 might mitigate that process, reducing inflammation.

To test their theory, they turned to a familiar group of research subjects -- medical students. Some of the earliest work these scientists did showed that stress from important medical school tests lowered students' immune status.

"We hypothesized that giving some students omega-3 supplements would decrease their production of proinflammatory cytokines, compared to other students who only received a placebo," explained Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychology and psychiatry. "We thought the omega-3 would reduce the stress-induced increase in cytokines that normally arose from nervousness over the tests."

The team assembled a field of 68 first- and second-year medical students who volunteered for the clinical trial. The students were randomly divided into six groups, all of which were interviewed six times during the study. At each visit, blood samples were drawn from the students who also completed a battery of psychological surveys intended to gauge their levels of stress, anxiety or depression. The students also completed questionnaires about their diets during the previous weeks.

Half the students received omega-3 supplements while the other half were given placebo pills. "The supplement was probably about four or five times the amount of fish oil you'd get from a daily serving of salmon, for example," explained Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition and co-author in the study.

But the psychological surveys clearly showed an important change in anxiety among the students: Those receiving the omega-3 showed a 20 percent reduction in anxiety compared to the placebo group.

An analysis of the of the blood samples from the medical students showed similar important results. "We took measurements of the cytokines in the blood serum, as well as measured the productivity of cells that produced two important cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa)," said Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology & medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

"We saw a 14 percent reduction in the amounts of IL-6 among the students receiving the omega-3." Since the cytokines foster inflammation, "anything we can do to reduce cytokines is a big plus in dealing with the overall health of people at risk for many diseases," he said. While inflammation is a natural immune response that helps the body heal, it also can play a harmful role in a host of diseases ranging from arthritis to heart disease to cancer.

While the study showed the positive impact omega-3 supplements can play in reducing both anxiety and inflammation, the researchers aren't willing to recommend that the public start adding them to the daily diet. "It may be too early to recommend a broad use of omega-3 supplements throughout the public, especially considering the cost and the limited supplies of fish needed to supply the oil," Belury said. "People should just consider increasing their omega-3 through their diet."
Some of the researchers, however, acknowledged that they take omega-3 supplements.


Being fat may be healthier for you than constantly trying to diet, claim university researchers

It is the perfect excuse to push aside that salad and pat yourself on the slightly rounded tummy. Scientists have shown it may be better to stay fat than go on diet after diet.

A study of thousands of obese men and women found that more than one in three were perfectly healthy or had only slight health problems. Contrary to the much-publicised message that you have to be thin to be well, they were no more likely to die at any given time than someone of an ideal weight. Indeed, they were less likely to be killed by heart disease.

They were also in better health than those who had fought a constant battle with their weight by repeatedly dieting, only to pile the pounds back on.

The researchers say there is more to good health than how a person tips the scales – and some people classed as overweight are fine as they are.

Rather than try to shed their excess pounds, something that can do more harm than good if repeated time after time, they should simply concentrate on not putting on any more weight.

The advice comes from researchers at Toronto's York University who tracked the health of more than 6,000 obese men and women for an average of 16 years. They underwent medical and physical tests and their results were compared with those of thousands of people of normal weight. This clearly revealed that being slim isn't always superior, according to the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

It may be that some people's genes allow them to escape many of the health consequences of being overweight.

Those who are overweight but healthy may also exercise more and eat better than thin people who smoke to suppress their appetites.

And a stressed-out, sedentary person of normal weight may be in worse shape than a plump person who exercises and keeps stress levels under control.

The Canadian researchers said that rather than using body mass index, or BMI, a measure of weight compared to height, to judge whether a person needs to lose weight, doctors should look at overall health.

A previous study found that pensioners who are slightly overweight live longer than those of a normal weight.

The Australian researchers said a bit of extra padding may give someone the reserves needed to recover from falls and illnesses.

It is also possible that concern about the health of the overweight means that problems are spotted and treated earlier.


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