Monday, May 20, 2013

Fish oil 'can restore the brain after junk food': Diets rich in omega-3s play key role in reversing damage caused by high fats (?)

This is just the latest obeisance in the fish oil religion.  They have no new data, just a literature survey.  As computer people say, Garbage in, garbage out

Fish oil can counter the negative effect junk food has on the brain, say scientists.

More than a decade of research has shown that high-fat diets can impact the brain by disrupting 'neurogenesis', a process that generates new nerve cells.

Now University of Liverpool researchers have discovered that diets rich in omega-3s, such as fish oil, can prevent these negative effects by stimulating the area of the brain that controls feeding, learning and memory.

The team from the University's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease originally set out to look at research from across to world to see whether the data suggested that omega-3s had a role to play in aiding weight loss.

However, although data from the 185 research papers indicated fish oils do not have a direct impact on this process, it found that they play a significant role in reversing the damage high fats can cause the brain.

Researcher Dr Lucy Pickavance explained: 'Body weight is influenced by many factors, and some of the most important of these are the nutrients we consume.

'Excessive intake of certain macronutrients, the refined sugars and saturated fats found in junk food, can lead to weight gain, disrupt metabolism and even affect mental processing.

'These changes can be seen in the brain's structure, including its ability to generate new nerve cells, potentially linking obesity to neurodegenerative diseases.

'Research, however, has suggested that omega-3 fish oils can reverse or even prevent these effects. We wanted to investigate the literature on this topic to determine whether there is evidence to suggest that omega-3s might aid weight loss by stimulating particular brain processes.'

The research papers showed that on high-fat diets hormones that are usually secreted from body tissues into the circulation after eating - which protect neurons and stimulate their growth - are prevented from passing into the brain by increased circulation of inflammatory molecules and a type of fat called triglycerides.

Molecules that stimulate nerve growth are also reduced.

But it appears - in studies with animal models - that omega-3s restore normal function by interfering with the production of these inflammatory molecules, suppressing triglycerides, and returning these nerve growth factors to normal.

Dr Pickavance added: 'Fish oils don't appear to have a direct impact on weight loss, but they may take the brakes off the detrimental effects of some of the processes triggered in the brain by high-fat diets.

'They seem to mimic the effects of calorie restrictive diets and including more oily fish or fish oil supplements in our diets could certainly be a positive step forward for those wanting to improve their general health.'


Medical use of Cannabis and MS

Like many of those facing a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Barry Rudd was willing to try anything to be well again.

The property developer from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, had been an avid three-times-a-week gym-goer when, in 2004, he was given the devastating news.

Just 53 at the time, he had started feeling tired, and his foot began dragging when he walked. After being referred to a neurologist in June 2005, the diagnosis was finally given: primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

One of the more uncommon forms of the disease, affecting only 15 per cent of sufferers, it causes a steady decline as symptoms worsen.

The condition, in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, slowly robs sufferers of their balance, movement and speech, causing stiffness, numbness, insomnia, pain and exhaustion.

There was little doctors could do to help Barry and he was drawn by desperation into the murky world of alternative medicine – paying more than £20,000 for bogus treatments in Holland and Poland that had no effect on his condition.

Finally, in late 2010 he saw an article online about a new drug called Sativex. The oral spray is derived from the cannabis plant – but without any of the associated dangers or side effects – and works by dampening down the over-activity in the nervous system that damages the muscles, inhibiting movement.

‘I mentioned it to my neurologist, who said, “You can’t get it in this area. If you want it you have to buy it privately.” So he gave me a private prescription. I went to my local chemist who charged me £550.’

The supply lasted just six weeks, but the effects were almost immediate. ‘Within a few days I could feel the benefit and after a couple of weeks my symptoms were almost completely gone. I’d say I was 80 per cent better,’ says Barry.

But, unable to get an NHS prescription, after three months Barry could no longer afford the treatment. His symptoms flooded back. To add to his misery, he found that a few miles away at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, MS patients with symptoms similar to his are being prescribed the drug.

According to Dr Willy Notcutt, consultant in pain management at James Paget Hospital in Great Yarmouth, Sativex can not only alleviate existing problems but could hold back the progression of MS.

‘Sativex is licensed only for the relief of spasticity [tightness in the muscles that affect movement] and found effective in half of cases,’ he says. ‘Many patients have discovered what Barry did: it also relieves other symptoms, such as chronic insomnia.’

A major review of trials last December concluded there was insufficient evidence to warrant Sativex’s routine use with MS, yet Dr Notcutt is convinced of its effectiveness.

‘We found that patients have substantially improved sleep,’ he says. ‘Studies on animals have shown some reduction in disease progression. We know it has an effect on protecting the nervous system.’

The problems have arisen because of the way certain clinical commissioning groups (CCGs – the bodies that have replaced primary care trusts) do their sums. A single bottle costing £125 will contain 90 sprays.

The drug has not yet been assessed by the NHS guidance body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – which means funding decisions are not uniform across CCGs.

The result is that it is not being prescribed widely. Earlier this year, British charity the MS Society found that just two in 100 patients were using a symptom-reducing treatment such as Sativex.

Laura Weir, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the MS Society, says: ‘We know that Sativex is not being prescribed in some areas and in other areas it is. We think this is down to CCGs making their own decisions at a local level.’

In 2011 the Midlands Therapeutic Review and Advisory Committee – an independent advisory group that provides guidance on pharmaceutical treatments in the West Midlands – recommended against prescribing Sativex, stating there was ‘inadequate evidence for efficacy and/or safety’.

Weir insists: ‘Their decision, which has triggered similar ones elsewhere, is based on inaccurate analysis of the data, and on the cost impact of the treatment rather than cost effectiveness. We wrote to them to highlight this but the committee has not reviewed the policy.

‘Prescription rates for Sativex in the UK are low. It is a licensed treatment for MS and has undergone extensive clinical testing that found it to be safe and effective. We strongly believe eligible people should be given the opportunity to try treatments that could benefit them.’

Barry turned to a nurse for advice. ‘She told me other patients buy cannabis and mix it into cakes.’

He refuses to consider this option. ‘If there’s a drug that’s legal – Sativex – and that works for me, why can’t I get it on the NHS? The future for me looks grim.’

Dr Notcutt is equally angry. He says: ‘When you find patients, as I have, whose lives are transformed by this drug you’re left wondering: are we prepared as a society to leave people in often agonising pain? Or do we provide them with a medicine that might help them?’


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