Omega-3 fatty acids from seafood may reduce inflammation, symptoms of gum disease and risk of abnormal heartbeats early after cardiac surgery. One type of omega-3, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), may also have lasting benefits in visual function for years in children whose mothers consume sufficient prenatal DHA. The December 2010 PUFA Newsletter and Fats of Life e-newsletters for health professionals and consumers, respectively, report on these new findings.
Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease in which cartilage connecting bones (i.e., knees, hips and spine) deteriorates, loses its ability to cushion joints and becomes inflamed. Omega-3 fatty acids, namely DHA and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), may reduce disease symptoms and cartilage degeneration based on results from a U.K. study, which looked at the effect of omega-3s in cultured, stressed cartilage tissue. When low levels of EPA and DHA were separately added to the tissue, the release of a protein associated with cartilage breakdown decreased along with inflammatory substances.
"This research demonstrates the potential of omega-3s to reduce some of the damage and perhaps ease the pain that goes with osteoarthritis," said Joyce Nettleton, D.Sc., editor of the PUFA Newsletter and Fats of Life.
Omega-3s may also be helpful with periodontitis, a chronic inflammatory condition that destroys gum tissue and bone if untreated. A recent U.S.-Egyptian study was the first to demonstrate that omega-3s are linked to reduced inflammation and improved symptoms in people with advanced periodontal disease. EPA and DHA (900 mg/day) plus low-dose aspirin led to improvements beyond other treatments.
In another study, patients undergoing different types of cardiac surgery who had no history of atrial fibrillation (abnormal heartbeats) or a pacemaker were given seafood omega-3s days prior to surgery. Nearly half (46 percent) were less likely to develop atrial fibrillation immediately after surgery than those not given any intervention.
Researchers in Nunavik, Quebec investigated the effect of maternal omega-3 intake on childhood visual function. Results showed that higher fetal exposure to DHA, which is concentrated in the retina of the eye, enhanced children's visual function up to 13 years later.
"DHA in maternal prenatal nutrition may have long-lasting effects in children," Nettleton concluded.