Two Big Fish: How Fish Oil Can Save your Life and your Breath

July 25, 2008

Two Big Fish:  How Fish Oil Can Save your Life and your Breath 

 Competency # 13 Good Fats, Bad Fats.     ReferenceJACC July 2008 Sekikawa et al pp 417-424 AJCN July 2008 Olsen et al 

 Two stories on fish oil in one week.  This is kind of fun.  First, from Japan and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.  Dr. Sekikawa looked at three populations of men to see if their vascular disease measures were different.   He looked first at 281 Japanese men living in Japan.  Then, 281 Japanese Americans, born and raised in America.  Then, 308 American Caucasians who had lived their entire lives in America.  They conducted ultrasounds of carotid arteries to see how thick they were and how much plaque they had.  They also tested coronary artery calcification and serum fatty acids.  Finally, they assessed the amount of fish these three groups ate.  

What they found was that the Japanese eat about 1.3 grams of fish oil a day in the form of whole fish.  CA and JA eat much less, about .2 grams.  The Japanese men had much higher blood levels of omega-fatty acids, as would be expected from their diets.  And the Japanese men had much, much less plaque in their arteries, despite smoking more.  We know that Japanese men have a dramatically lower death rate from coronary artery disease than Caucasian or Japanese American men.  They concluded that higher levels of omega fatty acids in your blood are an independent predictor of coronary artery disease, irrespective of your racial background.  Add that to smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes… (Vit D) 

 Then there is the Copenhagen Asthma Study.  They recruited 533 women to take fish oil, olive oil, or placebo in the last 10 weeks of their pregnancy.  Then they followed them for 16 years.  The women who got the fish oil had a 63% reduction in asthma in their children.  Your balance of Th1 cells to Th2 cells is established very early in life (like before birth), and that balance seems to set you up for allergies all your life.  Your allergic profile, once established, is much harder to change down the road.  The DHA and EPA omega fatty acids that are the principal active ingredients in fish oil compete with arachidonic acid to result in lower production of inflammatory eicosanoids.  Isn’t that a mouthful?  

This is a good study as they were able to follow 522 of the kids 16 years later, with the effects noted and statistically significant 16 years down the road.  The “hazard ratio” for allergic asthma was reduced 87%.  87%!   Enough already. 

 WWW: What will work for me?  I take a gram of fish oil a day.  Three big gelatin capsules.  I’ve done if for three years now.  Wish I had done if for 20.  It’s likely that coronary artery disease starts very early.  It’s become a habit for me now.  What’s interesting me to is that my hayfever in spring and fall have gotten dramatically better in the last three years.  I didn’t think about that until I read this article about the asthma stuff from Denmark.  If you aren’t taking fish oil, start.  If you are taking blood thinners, talk to your doctor, have your blood thinner monitored while you start.  But start.

The column brought to you by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5300)