Archive for August, 2011

A new study suggests that Omega 3 deficiency and suicide amongst soldiers might be related

Over the last few weeks we have talked about the link between Omega 3 fats and various mental disorders, including just recently discussing the results of a new study showing a link between ADHD, Omega 3 fatty acids and improvements in learning outcomes.

Just landed on our desk is a report of a new study which also talks about a related matter, the possible role of low levels of Omega 3 fatty acids in suicide.
Omega 3 and suicide
This study has been reported on the website, and notes an escalation in the number of deaths by suicide amongst the US military over recent times.

Could Omega 3 deficiency and suicide be related somehow?

The study sought to determine whether deficiencies in the Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, were associated with an increased risk of suicide amongst members of the US military.

Participants in the study were active US military personnel.

The results of study were that the risk of death by suicide amongst US military personnel was 62 percent greater amongst those with a low serum DHA status.

In fact the evidence suggested that low levels of DHA were a stronger predictor of the likelihood of suicide than factors which are expected to be more powerful, and in particular whether or not the particular individual was exposed to the death of another soldier.

Of course this does not prove that a low level of DHA contributes to the risk of suicide, or causes suicide. Clearly there are other factors at work and amongst US military personnel, particularly amongst active personnel, and these must also be taken into account. But it would suggest that DHA deficiency may well rank up there with those other factors as potential contributing factors, and may be one of the biggest.

Suicide is a problem for the military

Levels of suicide in the US military personnel are much higher than levels of suicide amongst the general population. In fact the defence Department recognizes the problem of suicide among soldiers and is actively encouraging US service personnel to seek help where they feel and they need ti, as well as attempting to identify any soldier who may be particularly at risk.

There may also be an issue for the military as far as their food preparation goes. It was generally found that service personnel have low levels of DHA, and perhaps the military could consider improving the diet of soldiers by offering some Omega 3 fortified foods, although preferably by offering soldiers Omega 3 capsules, as Omega 3 fortified foods may not be all that effective.

However there is also no doubt that further study should be undertaken to ascertain what role low levels of Omega 3 fats, and DHA in particular, may play in increasing the risk of suicide.

It’s a fascinating question, and as more evidence comes to light we shall bring it to you.

Source of the study


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New research is showing a link between ADHD, Omega 3 fatty acids and improvements in learning outcomes

Over the last few years there has been a number of studies about the link between Omega 3 and ADHD, as well as other learning and cognitive disorders and other mental disorders such as depression and postpartum depression.

Omega 3 fatty acids are good fats found primarily in fish oil, and most of us don’t get enough of the Omega 3 fats in our diet. This includes children.

There’s a new ADHD Omega 3 study out

A new study has now supported the conclusion that an adequate supply of Omega 3 essential fatty acids can help ameliorate the effects of ADHD.

One of the most well-known studies linking increased intake of Omega 3, and in particular DHA, is what is generally called the “Durham study”.

This was a trial undertaken in Durham in the UK where a group of students that were generally considered to be slower at learning were given Omega 3 supplements, and the conclusion was drawn that the children receiving the omega 3 supplements did better at school than those who did not.ADHD, Omega 3 and learning

Along with this study there have been others, not just in relation to ADHD, and find out more about the study you can read our article about ADHD, fish oil and learning.

The conclusions of the study, namely that more Omega 3 fatty acids, found primarily in fish oil, can help children with ADHD, have now been supported by a new Australian study published this month. 

The study concluded that low, or sub optimal levels of the Omega 3 fats may contribute to ADHD, as well as to other developmental problems.

75 children between the ages of 7 and 12, all with ADHD, were studied, and in particular blood levels were taken to ascertain their Omega 3 levels, and cognitive assessments were provided for the children to do. Other conclusions were that higher Omega 3 levels predicted lower levels of anxiety or shyness and that higher levels of DHA predicted “better word reading”, and that higher levels of Omega 6 contributed to poorer reading, vocabulary and spelling as well as attention.

It seems that there is strong emerging evidence of the link between Omega 3 and ADHD, and that children with ADHD will do better with optimal levels of omega 3 intake compared to children with ADHD with sub optimal levels of Omega 3 intake.

Source – the Australian study:

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How much fish do you want to eat?

How much fish is safe to eat is a question that is on the minds of many people, both people who are interested in eating fish for its Omega 3 content as well as people who just like eating fish.

It would seem a silly question really. How much fish should I eat? As much as you want. After all isn’t fish good for you? Doesn’t it contain all those good Omega 3 essential fatty acids?

Unfortunately despite the fact that fish does contain all those healthy Omega 3 fats, there is also a potential downside from eating fish.

The potential downside is that some fish is contaminated with Mercury and PCBs and other industrial toxins.How much fish should I eat

But should this stop you eating fish? Are the health benefits of eating fish, particularly the health benefits of all those good Omega 3 fats, outweighed by the health risks of eating contaminated fish?

In other words how much fish is safe to eat?

It’s extremely difficult to know how much fish to eat. Obviously it will vary enormously depending on a whole range of different factors.

What type of fish you eat, how often you eat it, where it comes from and much more should all be factored into the equation. It’s a question without a definite answer.

We have recently come across an excellent website called How Much Fish. On the website you can input various factors such as your weight and how much fish you eat in a serving, select your favourite fish or seafood and the site will give you a whole stack of useful information, including how much Omega 3 a serving will provide, how much you will get of other nutrients, and how much you would have to eat before you were at risk from any contamination.

For instance I selected a weight of 140 lbs, indicated that I would eat 3 ounces of fish in a serving, and selected Pacific Jack Mackerel as my fish of choice. The result tells me that I will be getting 1.57 grams of Omega 3 which is 314% of my daily requirements.

And it also tells me that unless I eat more than 178 ounces of Jack Mackerel I don’t need to be worried about Mercury contamination.

Of course all these things are a little fluid, there’s really no way to specify these details 100% accurately, however this is probably the best way that we’ve seen to find out more about how much you should eat of various fish.

None of this will be strictly accurate for a number of reasons. For instance the website specifies that 3 ounces of Pacific Jack Mackerel would provide 314% of my daily requirements for Omega 3, or what the website called “daily need”.

As there are no generally recognized dosage requirements for Omega 3, and no universally recognized recommended daily intake figures, this is a little uncertain, but probably as accurate as anything. (So the website uses the RDI from the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids figure of 500 mg of Omega 3 per day.)

And we have also seen various disagreements about the amount of Omega 3 in some types of fish as well, so that may not be 100% accurate.

The overall message seems to be however that whilst it is true that there are concerns about toxic contamination of fish, you would need to eat quite a lot before you should really be worried. The calculations on the website, it says, are based on the mercury standards from the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. 

Note however that this is slightly different if you’re pregnant, and the website does give specific advice to pregnant women, as well as recognizing the importance of eating fish for pregnant women as well.

So if you’re asking yourself how much fish to eat, or how much fish is safe, head over to How Much Fish and see what they say about the particular fish you’re thinking of eating tonight.

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The health benefits of sardines include Omega 3 fats, but there’s much more.

Sardines are a fish that are small in size but big in other respects. We wanted to look at the health benefits of sardines, because eating sardines is one of the simplest ways of getting some good nutrition into your diet.

Sardines were named after the small Italian island called Sardinia. They are a very small fish that live in schools and which are very easy to catch for this reason. They are quite plentiful.

Sardines had the dubious distinction of being the first fish ever to be put in a can. And canned sardines are one of the most common fish in the supermarket.

Of course our website is about the health benefits of Omega 3 fats, and probably the most important of the many nutrient in sardines is the Omega 3 fatty acids. But that’s only the beginning of the story when talking about the nutrition in sardines.
The health benefits of sardines
If you read our website you’ll know that the Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for good health for a whole range of reasons, and we won’t go into them all here. If you’re interested in knowing more about why you should be increasing your intake of the Omega 3 fats then browse our categories on the right.

And of course the most important Omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, are found primarily in fish. However not all fish are packed with Omega 3 fats, in fact the amount of Omega 3 fats varies widely between different types of fish. Some are quite low in Omega 3.

That’s because the Omega 3 fats are primarily found in the oil in a fish, and therefore more oily fish also tend to have more Omega 3 fats.

And sardines, including canned sardines, are very high in the Omega 3 fats, with somewhere around 200 milligrams for every 100 grams of sardine that you eat. This might not sound much, but some of the more commonly recommended fish for Omega 3 content include tuna and salmon, which have around 20 percent of this. That makes it a little clearer that sardines are packed with Omega 3.

Of course the Omega 3 fats must rank very high amongst the health benefits of eating sardines, particularly as sardines are very high in these good fats, but Omega 3 is only one of the reasons why you should eat sardines. In fact the best way to get a regular dose of Omega 3 in your diet is to take daily high quality Omega 3 supplements, (though not all are high quality).

Sardines are also high in other nutrients. They are high in calcium, and of course calcium is important for your bones and nerves.

Sardines are also high in a range of vitamins, including vitamin E, vitamin D and some of the B group vitamins as well, in particular vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 is important to a range a bodily functions including the formation of red blood cells and your immune system, as well as your central nervous system.

One of the health benefits of sardines is that the Omega 3 fats in particular, but also some of the vitamins and anti oxidants, are very good for your skin.

They are also high in phosphorus, protein and potassium. In fact sardines are so good for you that there is now a sardine diet.

And of course a can of sardines is not the only way to eat them. If you can get them then sardines are very good eaten fresh, and here’s a few tips about cooking sardines.

Sardines tend to go off reasonably quickly. When buying them make sure you buy them the day you intend to cook and eat them.

And don’t freeze them, unfortunately they do not freeze well, you’re always better to buy them fresh.

Sardines are easy to cook. They are very good grilled or barbecued, and a good way to do this is to add a little olive oil and lemon, marinate them first and then cook them for a minute or 2 over a good heat. Because sardines are quite small they cook fast, and this is sufficient.

Some people eat the bones, however for some the backbone is a little too much, and you may prefer to butterfly your sardines to remove the backbone.

But remember, ounce for ounce sardines will rate alongside any fish on the shelves for good nutrition. They are extremely nutritious as well as the very tasty and they have one other major advantage we haven’t yet mentioned.

We have talked elsewhere about the toxic contamination of some fish. As a general rule fish which are high on the food chain, and which are predatory fish which eat other fish, tend to accumulate more of the industrial toxins now being found in fish such as Mercury and PCBs.

However sardines are quite clean. They are low on the food chain and their diet is low in potentially contaminated foods.

And finally there is one other benefit of eating sardines. It’s not a benefit to you, it’s a benefit to the sardines, though in a way it is also benefit for you.

Whilst many fish are an endangered sardine fishing is relatively sustainable compared to many of the other fish that human beings eat. In other words we won’t be killing all the sardines any time soon, and that’s good for them, and good for you, because you can continue to eat them, and enjoy the many health benefits of sardines.

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