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Unformatted text preview: Photos: fotolia.com/© zampa (background), © LimJerry(fish), © Paul Maguire (stethoscope). Photo Illustration: Jorge Bach. t fi rst, the omega-3 fats in fi sh oil were only sup- posed to prevent sudden death heart attacks. But in the last few years, experts have looked at omega-3s and asthma, cancer, the aging brain, demen- tia, neurological diseases, diabetes, infl ammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, lupus, osteoporosis, eye health, mental health, and more. So far, the evidence is too skimpy to say that omega-3s matter for most health problems other than heart dis- ease. But the sheer number of potential benefi ts makes you wonder if you’re getting enough. “In the nutrition world, it’s one of the biggest success stories in decades,” says heart expert William Harris of the University of South Dakota. “The downsides are so minimal that the burden of proof for a benefi t doesn’t have to be that high.” But that doesn’t justify the unfounded promises on some food and supplement labels, says Harris. “We don’t want people hawking fi sh oil and raking in a lot of money based on sloppy data.” Here’s the latest on what omega-3s can—and can’t— do. C o n t i n u e d o n p a g e 3 . B Y B O N N I E L I E B M A N t fi po Is fi sh oil good for what ails you? O C T O B E R 2 0 0 7 V O L U M E 3 4 / N U M B E R 8 C E N T E R F O R S C I E N C E I N T H E P U B L I C I N T E R E S T $ 2 . 5 0 Grapefruit & breast cancer, p. 9 How to pick the best pasta sauce, p. 13 Spices...or medicine? p.10 > > > > > Harris. “Researchers have recognized that people with an ongoing fi brillation prob- lem are not a good model to answer the question of whether omega-3s are good for general heart health.” Most people who have a sudden death heart attack, he explains, “have a normal heart rhythm until a lack of oxygen throws them into ventricular fi brillation.” In contrast, “people who need a defi- brillator have structural heart disease or a heart that’s so damaged by a previous heart attack that they can easily fl ip into fi brillation. Their problem is not driven by lack of oxygen and blood fl ow but by electrical problems.” Overall, he says, “these results don’t hurt the advance of omega-3s. They’re kind of a hiccup.” What about trials that randomly assign people without defi brillators to take—or not take—fi sh oil? The largest, an Italian study called GISSI, ran- domly assigned more than 11,000 people who had recently suffered a heart attack to take either fi sh oil (850 mg of DHA plus EPA a day) or to see their doctor as usual. After 3½ years, the fi sh oil takers were half as likely to have died of a sudden death heart attack....
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- Spring '10
- Omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, fish oil, DHA