Can Omega 3 fats help Retinitis Pigmentosa, as it can help other eye conditions?

It is now well-known that the Omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are reasonably prevalent in your eye. And it has been shown, and we have discussed before in our article about baby vision, that an adequate supply of Omega 3 fats in the diet of infants and children can help with the development of visual accuity, amongst other things.

And at the other end of life it is also now understood that an adequate supply of the Omega 3 fats can also help older people who are or may be suffering from macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is the gradual degeneration of the macular in the eye with age. Those with extreme macular degeneration will, or may, eventually go blind, and this is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

Today we wanted to discuss another way in which increasing your intake of Omega 3 may help with a specific eye condition. It’s called Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Retinitis Pigmentosa is a disease of the retina of the eye, affecting, it is estimated, around one in 4000 people.
Retinitis Pigmentosa and Omega 3
Where Retinitis Pigmentosa occurs the result is damage to the retina, which can lead to night blindness amongst other things, including tunnel vision and even blindness.

Retinitis Pigmentosa is considered to be a genetic condition, and symptoms often start to develop at an early age. It is not considered to be one amendable to cure.

However there are encouraging studies suggesting that a diet high in Omega 3 fatty acids can help retain sensitivity in the central field of vision, and that an Omega 3 rich diet can help slow the rate of decline in this sensitivity.

Specifically, 3 studies were examined by an M.D. From the Massachusetts eye and ear infirmary, and it was concluded that the average rate of decline in distance visual acuity was around 40 percent reduced for people who had a diet high in the Omega 3 fats and Vitamin A, when compared to those who have a diet low in Omega 3 fats.

A specific, and fascinating conclusion was that “the treatment regimen of vitamin A combined with an ω-3-rich diet (≥0.20 g/d) should make it possible for many patients with typical retinitis pigmentosa to retain both visual acuity and central visual field for most of their lives.”

For those with Retinitis Pigmentosa this is an exciting conclusion, as the implications of the disease can be serious.

This result is less surprising considering that there is other evidence that diseases of the eye, and in particular macular degeneration, will, or may, respond positively to an increase in the intake of Omega 3 fats in the diet.

It would seem that the health of our eyes generally, from infancy or before right through into older age, can be positively impacted by making sure that the Omega 3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA are common in our diet, either through a diet rich in Omega 3 foods, or by Omega 3 supplementation, or a combination of both.

Whilst it is becoming more problematical in today’s society to get your Omega 3 essential fatty acids from food, for reasons we have indicated our article about Omega 3 eggs, there are certainly excellent Omega 3 supplements available on the market, though not all are excellent.

So for the health of your eyes, as well as your heart and many other parts of your body, make sure you’re getting enough Omega 3 in your diet.

Source for the article

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Prevention helps, and Omega 3 DHA can help in prevention of various health conditions

There is little doubt that modern demographics are changing. In the more developed world we are seeing an ageing population as the baby boomer generation moves through the 60s and 70s, and predictions are, in Australia at least, (according to the Australian Government’s Intergenerational Report, 2010) that by the year 2050 the over 65 is will make up aging-omega-3greater than 20 percent of the total population.

As a result much one of the biggest issues facing our society is health care for older people. As the population ages the pressure on the health care system increases dramatically, posing various pressures on financial resources allocated to it by the government.

In Australia the government is trying hard to overcome these challenges. For example there are now significant steps undertaken by the government to help reduce pressure on the public health system, for example by encouraging the uptake of private health insurance. This is achieved by offering a substantial government rebate to individuals who take up private health insurance, thereby offering a significant incentive to do so as well as reducing the cost to the taxpayer.

Because of course anyone taking out private health insurance will reduce the burden on the government purse of supplying free healthcare through the health care system.

Not only is the government attempting to make citizens more responsible for their own health care, they are also attempting to make citizens more responsible for their own retirement with various requirements all directed at increasing the retirement funds available to individuals through their own savings.

What has all this to do with Omega 3 I hear you ask? Simply this.

As they say an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Prevention of health problems is cheap, the cure of health problems is expensive, and the costs are often ongoing for chronic diseases.

One of the better ways of helping prevent various chronic health conditions which manifest themselves in older people is to ensure an adequate intake of Omega 3 essential fatty acids, and in particular DHA. There is substantial evidence that for everyone, but particularly for older people, increasing the intake of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids in our diet is well worth the small cost.

As we’ve said elsewhere on this website there’s a range of debilitating diseases which afflict primarily older people. Macular degeneration, for example, is a condition of the eye affecting older people and which is the leading cause of blindness in older people.

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is also a disease that is much more common (though not exclusive) to older people, as is arthritis, vascular disease, heart disease and much more.

There is substantial evidence that those of us who have diets very low in the Omega 3 essential fatty acids may well benefit from increasing our intake of the Omega 3 fats, particularly DHA, and that this increase may well have positive benefits at helping ameliorate the risks of these types of diseases.

Of course simply increasing your intake of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids does not remove the risks of developing these diseases, however there is considerable evidence that increasing the Omega 3 intake may well have some preventative effect.

Over and over studies are showing that as our diet changes, and as seafood is gradually removed from a diet, (seafood being the major source of the omega 3 fats in the past) there is a growing risk of many of these diseases.

There is no doubt that governments are struggling to deal with the implications of an ageing population, and one of the most serious implications is to budgets worldwide as health-care costs soar as the baby boomer demographic bulge moves through into and past retirement age.

This produces substantial challenges, and increasing public awareness of the health benefits of the Omega 3 fats is only one small way of dealing with this. But it is certainly one of the important aspects of the mix.

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There is evidence that taking fish oil improves muscle growth from training in older women.

There is a growing body of evidence that increasing your intake of fish oil, or more specifically the Omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA found commonly in fish oil, can help increase muscle growth, muscle repair and improve the results that you get from exercising.

That may sound strange, however previous studies supporting this conclusion have now been joined by a new study, published in early 2012, suggesting that older women who undertake strength training can improve the results of that strength training by taking fish oil supplements.

In the new study, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 45 healthy women around 65 years of age were studied. The study was undertaken in Brazil.

During the study these women were broken into 3 groups, all 3 involving the same amount of strengthening exercises undertaken 3 times a week for 90 days.

One of the groups of women undertook only the strengthening exercises. The 2nd group did the strengthening exercises plus took 2 grams of fish oil each day beginning on the 1st day, and the 3rd group took 2 grams of fish oil each day, but starting 60 days before beginning the exercise training.Fish oil and muscle

As part of the study the muscle strength of the women was evaluated, and as you would expect all of the groups of women showed an improvement in muscle strength by the end of the study.

However the groups of women who supplemented the strength training with fish oil supplementation showed a greater increase in muscle strength than those who did not. There was no difference in the increase in muscle strength between the group who started the supplementation on the day the muscle training began, and the group who began 2 months before.

Of course as you get older you start to suffer from declining muscle capacity, and for this reason strength training may well be beneficial to older people. It seems, following the conclusions of this relatively small study, that you may well be able to improve your results by taking fish oil supplements as well.

This isn’t the only study showing some form of correlation between increasing muscle mass or capacity and taking fish oil supplements. It has been observed, for example, that cancer patients who take fish oil can retain muscle mass better than those who do not.

And some bodybuilders are being advised to add a dose of fish oil supplements to their muscle training to help build muscle mass. And it’s not just muscle mass, other reasons bodybuilders might consider taking fish oil include that there is evidence that increasing your intake of fish oil not only increases muscle mass but also helps reduce body fat, particularly around the abdomen.

And as we have noted elsewhere on this website, it is now commonly accepted that the Omega 3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA are effective anti-inflammatories, this being one of the major reasons why they are effective in helping reduce symptoms of a number of different conditions. Highly trained athletes, including bodybuilders, are often prone to inflammatory injuries, often of the joints, and therefore fish oil supplementation may well help reduce the incidence of inflammation and associated injuries.

And of course there are the more general benefits. Supplementing with fish oil for muscle increase is just one. Reducing your likelihood of dying from a heart attack has to be good to everybody, not just bodybuilders.

And there are also specific advantages of fish oil supplementation for the older people amongst us. As well as taking fish oil for muscle strength, Omega 3 fats can help reduce your risk of macular degeneration, the major cause of blindness in the elderly, particularly in women. And there is strong evidence that the anti-inflammatory effects of the Omega 3 fats can also help in a regime designed to help treat arthritis.

So whether you’re an older female, like in the study, a bodybuilder or anyone, there are powerful reasons to consider increasing your intake of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids found in fish oil.

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Confused about the correct fish oil dosage? Lets talk about that.

One of the most common questions we see is about the correct fish oil dosage. Constantly we see the question “how much fish oil should I take”?

Good question. How much do you take? What about the recommended dosage for fish oil capsules for someone with preexisting heart disease, do they take more Omega 3 supplements?

The first place to look is the website of the American Heart Association. The recognize the heart benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids, and they deal with the question of what is the proper dosage of fish oil for both people with no preexisting heart problems, and for those who do have preexisting heart conditions.

Lets look at what they recommend.

Firstly though, lets consider the source of the fish oil. Now of course you could get your fish oil from eating fish. That’s fine, but be aware that there are some problems associated with this, (apart from the fact that fish is very expensive and it’s cheaper to buy fish oil supplements).

The first problem is that fish are generally contaminated with various toxins, and the FDA recommend limiting your intake of fish for this reason.

This doesn’t apply to the best fish oil supplements, they go through a rigorous process to ensure that they are free from contaminants. Note that not all fish oil supplements are free from contaminants.

The next problem is how much Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats you get from different types of fish. The level varies from one type of fish to another, and it’s hard to know what you need to eat to get enough. Generally speaking oily fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines, lake trout, albacore tuna and salmon is better than non oily fish.

The AHA recommendations for people with no known heart health problems is for a minimum of 2 fish meals a week (of the right types of fish). Now of course as stated that doesn’t make it easy. What if you want to take quality fish oil capsules because fish is too expensive?
Fish Oil Dosage

The AHA recommendation also includes the statement that “evidence from prospective secondary prevention studies suggests that taking EPA+DHA ranging from 0.5 to 1.8 grams per day (either as fatty fish or supplements) significantly reduces deaths from heart disease and all causes.”

So as a general rule, for healthy people, around .5 to 1.8 grams of EPA and DHA a day from fish or fish oil supplements.

For those with existing heart problems the recommendation is as follows:

For those with documented Coronary Heart Disease: 1 gram of EPA and DHA a day. (Note that those with known heart health problems should consult a doctor before starting any supplements, in fact anyone should).

And for those seeking to lower triglycerides: 2 to 4 grams per day. Again, consult your doctor.

So there’s some more specific recommendations.  Now lets look at another source.

In a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on 11th August 2009 the recommendations are at least 500 mg per day for those with no known cardio vascular issues, and 800 to 1000 mg per day for those with known pre existing heart disease problems, of EPA and DHA.

The next question is, what ratio of EPA to DHA? There isn’t yet sufficient science to tell us, it’s still being studied.

So what can we deduce from all that? We can deduce that, firstly, the fish oil dosage for heart disease patients is higher than for people with no known heart disease.

And we can conclude that the science is still out on the exact dosage of fish oil that everyone should be taking. But it’s getting there. The dosage recommendations above are relatively clear.

Around 500 mg (1/2 gram) minimum of EPA and DHA a day for healthy people, and around 1000 mg (1 gram) a day for known heart disease patients, perhaps double for lowering triglycerides.

The best fish oil supplements contain 280 mg of DHA and 120 mg of EPA per capsule.  (That’s more than double the normal amount of DHA in most “average” capsules). A total of 400mg of DHA and EPA.

So 2 capsules a day will give you 800 mg in total, around the level proposed by the AHA. And the recommended dosage, (taken from the label), for adults is 2 capsules a day.

The conclusion therefore is that if you use the best fish oil supplements and have no known preexisting heart problems, just follow the recommended dosages listed on the label. Other fish oil supplements may require you to take 4 or 5 or more capsules, depending on the quantity of Omega 3 fats in the capsules.

So if you’re wondering “how much fish oil should I take” we hope this gives you some guidelines. There are no formal exact guidelines, these things are still under study.

But taking the recommendations of the AHA as a basis, we can draw some conclusions about the recommended dosage for  fish oil supplements.

And those dosage conclusions correspond with the dosage recommendations of the best Omega 3 supplements money can buy. Take 2 capsules day for general heart health.

Update: As more and more scientific research is undertaken there is more confusion about the correct fish oil dosage for people with varying medical conditions. Different medical conditions may well require different dosages.

Some of the studies for specific conditions apply quite high dosages to the study subjects. This doesn’t mean that high dosages are required, just that it’s a way to find out what happens.

But the bottom line is always the same. If you are in any doubt about the correct dosage for you, either as a healthy individual, or someone with a medical condition, always consult your doctor. There are often complicating factors involved, such as medications you may be taking, and it’s essential that you tell your doctor you are considering fish oil supplements, and that gives your doctor an opportunity to consider how much fish oil to take, if any, in reference to your treatment.

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