An "Executive Order" to Include Fish Oil in Your Diet
Lyme Expert Defends North Carolina Infection Expert, Blasts AP for Many Errors and Takes On Drs. Shapiro and Mead
To the Associated Press,
The story entitled "Doctor Disciplined over Lyme Disease Treatment" (4/14/06) has numerous inaccuracies. First, the title makes it sound like Dr. Jemsek has already been convicted of some crime. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the story finally acknowledges in the fourth paragraph. By then the casual reader has been totally misled.
The story quotes Dr. Paul Mead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who makes comments about the treatment of chronic Lyme disease. Dr. Mead is a research epidemiologist at the CDC. He is not involved in direct patient care, and he has no expertise in the clinical management of patients with chronic Lyme disease. His comments are irrelevant to the thousands of patients suffering from chronic Lyme disease, and his uninformed clinical views are irrelevant to Dr. Jemsek's case.
The story also quotes Dr. Eugene Shapiro, a pediatric researcher from Yale University who helped formulate the now-obsolete Lyme guidelines of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Dr, Shapiro makes another one of his nihilistic comments for which he is notorious:
"It's not that the people diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease don't have problems," he said. "It's that chronic Lyme disease is not the problem."
Over the past decade, it has become obvious that a major problem for people with chronic Lyme disease is Dr. Shapiro himself, who has used his stature as a university professor to spread misinformation about Lyme disease around the country. Sadly there are gullible reporters who blindly print his dismissive statements while ignoring the immense problems with chronic Lyme disease, which confers disability similar to congestive heart failure. Dr. Jemsek is trying to solve those problems. Dr. Shapiro is making them worse.
A story like this one should have included comments from more enlightened physician groups such as the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS, www.ilads.org) and from patient advocacy groups such as the national Lyme Disease Association (LDA, www.lymediseaseassociation.org). Let's hope that the Associated Press does a better job next time.
Raphael Stricker, MD
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have been shown in numerous major studies to provide tremendous benefits to your cardiovascular function. However, the benefits don't stop there. Omega-3 fatty acids also are critical for improving your ongoing brain function, promoting pain-free joints, diminishing your danger from eye disease, managing depression and even reducing your risk of cancer.
I personally take omega-3 fish oil as an essential supplement in my daily routine. I feel strongly that you should, too. And apparently the highest levels of the United States government want you to, as well!
On May 27, 2003, the White House issued an incredible statement. It urged health agencies of the government to encourage Americans to increase their consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, while decreasing their intake of trans-fatty acids. This monumental directive was precipitated by new guidelines issued by the American Heart Association at that time, recommending you consume coldwater fish at least twice a week as well as other oils and food sources high in omega-3 fatty acids as a way to reduce your risk of heart disease. It is not every day that you see the White House/government take such a positive stance on your diet and endorse a particular nutritional supplement.
Today I want to discuss with you the actual benefits of fish oil, but first please allow me to give you a brief overview: Fish oil contains omega-3 essential fatty acids. The two major components of this group are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). A third member of the omega-3 family, known as ALA (alpha linolenic acid), is found in plant oils. While both EPA and DHA are found in fish, interestingly these essential fatty acids are not produced by the fish, but rather by single- celled marine organisms that the fish eat. It is generally said that the "oilier" the fish, the greater concentration of EPA and DHA.
The benefits of omega-3 essential fatty acids were first recognized more than three decades ago when researchers noted that Eskimos in Greenland had a very high dietary intake of fat, yet had a very low rate of ischemic heart disease. Following these findings, researchers began studying the nutrients in some detail.
The first major study involved 1,000 individuals from Great Britain who had heart disease. They were advised to eat two servings of oily fish a week for two years. At the end of the study, it was found that those individuals who followed this advice had reduced their incidence of death by 29%, compared to a similar group that did not add extra servings of fish to their diet.
In a subsequent study out of Italy, more than 2,800 patients who had suffered heart attacks were given EPA/DHA in a capsule form, which they took daily for three-and-a-half years. Each capsule provided approximately 850 mg of a combination of EPA and DHA. At the end of the study, death-from any cause-was reduced by 20%. More importantly, sudden death was reduced by an amazing 45% compared to a similar group of patients that were not given supplemental fish oil. It is believed that the major benefit for fish oil in regard to heart disease is the reduction of sudden cardiac death.
There appears to be two factors involved in this benefit. First, you can reduce your risk of cardiac arrhythmia. Second, you may decrease your platelet stickiness, which can lead to arrhythmia and heart disease. In an article published in the May 2005 edition of Frontiers in Bio-Science, it was postulated that the anti-arrhythmic effects of fish oil appeared to be related to stabilization of sodium and calcium channels in your heart cells.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids, however, do a lot more than benefit your heart. DHA appears to be a particular powerful nutrient in regard to your brain function. Your brain utilizes probably the most amount of DHA than any organ in your body. The adult human brain actually contains more than 20 grams of DHA. Subsequently, a high intake of fish has been linked to a significant decrease in your probability of age-related memory loss. Just last month, there was a fascinating study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Scientists were able to develop an animal rat model for Alzheimer's disease. The test rats were orally fed DHA. After twelve weeks, the rats given the supplement showed improvement in spatial cognition and learning compared to rats that were not treated with this additional nutrient. The author of the study concluded that DHA is a possible therapeutic agent for ameliorating learning deficiencies due to Alzheimer's disease.
In my opinion, it is critically important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to ingest additional DHA as well. There is some evidence in the medical literature that would suggest inadequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acid intake might increase the risk of premature birth. It is my recommendation that women get at least 500 mg to 600 mg of DHA every day during pregnancy and lactation.
Omega-3 fatty acids have excellent anti-inflammatory benefits for you, too. There have also been some studies in the medical literature indicating that fish oil can be extremely beneficial in patients suffering with rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis. I feel that fish oil is an important supplement, recommended to all my patients suffering from joint pain.
Additional benefits from omega-3 fatty acids continue to be seen in numerous studies. In a double-blinded study just published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that administration of omega-3 fatty acids to patients with acute pancreatitis actually decreased their length of hospitalization and overall complications.
There have been other studies in the medical literature indicating that omega-3 fatty acids can even have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk of cancer. Other studies indicate fish oil can prevent the metastasis (spreading) of cancer. There have also been studies indicating that DHA can have especially beneficial effects in ameliorating depression. In one study, omega-3 supplementation in the 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg range reduced irritability in patients with bipolar disorder.
There was even a study in the Archives of Ophthalmology last September regarding retinitis pigmentosa, an untreatable disorder eventually leading to blindness. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either 1,200 mg of DHA daily plus 15,000 units of Vitamin A versus Vitamin A alone. Those patients on Vitamin A and DHA showed a decrease in loss of vision for the first two years of the study.
As I stated earlier, I have been well aware of the incredible benefits of fish oils for the last several years, and I take this supplement on a daily basis. I want to strongly encourage you to adopt the same strategy for your optimal health and prevention. I do want to warn you against the false statements made by many others that say flaxseed oil has the same benefits as fish oil. This is completely false! All of the studies mentioned have been done with fish oil, not flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil has absolutely zero omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Only a small percentage of the ALA in flaxseed oil is converted to omega-3 fatty acids. Please keep in mind that flaxseed oil can provide other benefits, but does not replace fish oil.
Although there are varying opinions as to the correct ratio of DHA and EPA, it is my belief that DHA is the more important of the two omega-3 fatty acids for your brain, nervous system and vision function. I recommend a total of 500 - 600 mg per day of DHA. Nutraceutical Sciences Institute (NSI) has a terrific omega-3 product called DHA. Two softgels provide you with a total of 550 mg of DHA, along with 50 mg of EPA. I find this formula particularly effective and safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. NSI also provides a Mega EFA fish oil product with a dosage of two softgels containing over 2,100 mg of fish oil. This provides 800 mg of EPA and 400 mg of DHA. The level of EPA and DHA provided per softgel is 2 - 3 times more than other products for about the same price.
I recommend 1,000 - 2,000 mg of total omega-3 fatty acids for people that have inflammation or joint pain and/or cardiovascular health concerns.
*EPA is more effective for fighting pain and inflammation.
*DHA and EPA are both excellent for promoting cardiovascular health.
In fact, a recent study in children indicated DHA reduces the levels of certain LDL cholesterol particles that are highly dangerous ...
All of NSI's essential fatty acid products are pharmaceutical-grade and molecularly-distilled, ensuring a high level of concentration and product purity. This process removes PCBs, mercury and other heavy metals. Fish oil supplements produced in this manner are far safer than consuming fish, like salmon. If you do consume salmon, make sure it is wild caught salmon-farm raised has high levels of toxins and less omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to note that the fish source for the oils for NSI products is from the body of the fish, not fish liver oils. These are some of our most-popular-selling products, not only for the tremendous health value, but also because of the superior quality of the products.
For children and adults that cannot swallow softgels, I highly recommend Coromega that is in a good-tasting orange pudding form, or Nordic Naturals chewable flavored softgels and liquid supplements. [If you have a sensitive stomach, consider Fisol, which is enterically coated, so it opens only after it leaves your stomach].
If you are not taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, I really urge you to do so immediately. It amazes me that the normally anti-supplement government even admits to the benefits of these supplements!
By Allen S. Josephs, M.D., neurologist and internist
Posted with my italics and some editing. His thoughts posted with my thanks.
I would also like to thank Wayne Gorsek, who founded and runs Nutraceutical Sciences Institute, for contributing to my research on omega-3 supplement purity. He helped pay for my research costs in examining a large number of omega-3 supplements for mercury.
The study appears to have been the first on the topic, and the full text article is found at:
Schaller JL. Mercury and Fish Oil Supplements. Medscape General Medicine. April 13, 2001. Available at: www.medscape.com/viewarticle/408125.
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