“Resolvin” to Eat More Fish

December 10, 2005

How Fish Oil Works: The Method 

 Competency #13 FATS                              ReferenceJournal of Experimental Medicine Vol 196, #8 pp 1025-1037; Current Nutrition and Metabolic Care:  Vol 8(2), March 2005, p115-121 

 For those who wonder why, here is a fascinating line of explanation to show how fish oil works. Charles N. Serhan, at Harvard, has been studying the inflammatory response and how aspirin modulates it.  In the Journal of Experimental Medicine (Vol 196, #8 pp 1025-1037) his group has isolated and described a whole new set of "eicosanoids" that are cell to cell messengers.  Aspirin turns them on sharply.  An eicosanoid analogy: it's like an intercom in your office to your next-door workmate compared to a local phone call or a long-distance internet call.  The most local of hormones, eiconsanoids included prostaglandins, leukotrienes, lipoxins.  The precursors to these chemicals are what we call DHA or EPA or most simply: fish oil.  

Eicosanoids last only a millionth of a second and are degraded promptly.  We are used to the language of prostaglandins and are familiar with how ibuprofen affects prostaglandins. Serhan has found a new class of eicosanoids that he has called Resolvins in that they turn on the resolution of inflammation.  Aspirin turns them on even more.  Interestingly, the huge GISSI Prevenzione trial evaluated the use of fish oil and was the source of the American Heart Association recommendation that we all eat more omega-3 fatty acid fish because of the remarkable reduction in sudden death.  

Many patients were also taking aspirin in that study, as ASA is part and parcel of early MI treatment. What we do know is that unresolved inflammation is important in many chronic disorders which include heart disease, asthma, and Alzheimer’s.  The "resolvin" class of chemicals turn off that inflammation and signal the body to clean up the mess by mobilizing macrophages to eat up all the dead stuff and stop the inflammatory cascades.  This is significant because this opens up a whole new arena for research on chemicals to turn off inflammation.  

We have one potent drug that works here, aspirin.  Are there others?  This is another place where aspirin has a profound and potent effect.  If this drug was discovered today, it would sell for $ 10 a tablet.  Fortunately, you pay $. 01 a tablet. 

 WWW: What works for me.   I take three fish oil pills a day before breakfast.  If I take it at bedtime, I burp fish.  If I take them before eating breakfast, I’m fine.  All the bottles want you to take more.  Enough already.  And, I take a baby aspirin.  I'm 54, sudden death is an issue for any of us over 45 and male, over 55 and female.  Take your one a day for the rest of your life.  I'll let you know if I find anything to the contrary. One good article to read:  There is now a Review article published just this year Current Nutrition and Metabolic Care:  Vol 8(2), March 2005, p115-121.  It talks about the possibilities for future research as we unfold the implications of this whole new class of chemical messengers that are manufactured from fish oil.

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5300)