Surgery News

Omega-3 fatty acids for a health heart

August 26, 2015

Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat important to overall health. As it pertains to heart disease, their main benefit is their ability to reduce the risk of heart rhythm problems in certain groups of people, thus reducing the risk of sudden cardiac death. In addition, omega-3s may help reduce triglycerides, lower blood pressure slightly and reduce blood clotting.

The best source of omega-3s is fatty, cold water fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon and tuna. Plant oils, such as canola and flaxseed oils, also are sources of omega-3s.

For heart disease prevention, near-maximum benefit comes from eating two 3-ounce servings of cold water fish a week. More than that doesn't appear to offer any additional preventive benefit.

Higher amounts of two kinds of omega-3, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), may benefit some people with established heart disease or high triglyceride levels and can have an anti-inflammatory effect for people with rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, DHA is being studied to see if it can slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

For those who don't eat fish, a fish oil supplement or an algae supplement can provide omega-3 fatty acids. However, supplements aren't cheap, and the amount of DHA and EPA in supplements varies widely. Except for people who have established heart disease, the evidence of heart disease prevention is stronger when one eats fish instead of taking supplements. Supplements can pose risks, too. Taking more than 3 grams of fish oil a day may increase the risk of bleeding, worsen heart rhythm problems in those who have arrhythmias or cause other side effects.

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Forty years ago, scientists began exploring a possible link between overexposure to metals and Alzheimer's disease. Because some people with the disease had aluminum deposits in their brains, it was thought that there was a direct connection between aluminum exposure and Alzheimer's. However, after many years of study, no conclusive evidence links aluminum to neurodegenerative disease, which leaves researchers to focus on zinc, iron and copper.

The researchers also found that several distinct types of structures could be assembled from individual units of amino acids. "We found that we could build lots of different types of structures with an individual unit: fettuccine-shaped structures, tubes, vesicles, and so on, not just fibers. And this is remarkable," says Dr. Lynn.

"Our findings now lead us to ask what other types of structures these individual units can make, what exactly happens when the units bind to one another, and whether these individual units are important to neurodegenerative diseases or whether the entire fibril must be involved," says Dr. Lynn.

"Like many scientific findings, we know about amyloid because of the diseases it's associated with rather than because of its benefits," says Dr. Lynn. "However, researchers are also finding situations in which amyloid is beneficial, such as in long-term memory and synapse maintenance in the marine snail."

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