Protective Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 appear to reduce the risk of heart attack. A 20-year project at the University of Leyden in the Netherlands, comparing the eating habits of more than 800 men at risk of heart disease, found that men who ate more than an ounce of fish a day had a 50 percent lower rate of heart attacks.
Since then, a lengthening list of studies has shown similar protection among men who eat fish at least two or three times a week. One possible explanation is that omega-3 reduce triglyceride levels. Another is that you body converts omega-3 to a compound similar to prostacyclin, a naturally occurring chemical that inhibits the formation of blood clots.
Omega-3 also reduce the risk of "sudden death" heart attach. In the United States, about 250,000 people die each year from sudden cardiac failure caused by ventricular fibrillation, an unexpectedly irregular heartbeat. A 1995 study from the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Adelaide), showed that laboratory monkeys fed omega-3 oils from fish had a steady heartbeat when exposed to electrical current twice as powerful as that which caused ventricular fibrillation in animals that did not get the fish oils.
Omega-3 inhibit the production of leuketrienes, naturally occuring chemicals that trigger inflammation. This may be beneficial to people with rheumatoid arthritis. In 1995, the Arthritis Foundation published the results of a study by Piet Geusens at the Catholic University in Pellenberg (Belgium) suggesting that patients who take omega-3 fatty acid supplements along with their regular arthritis medications have improved pain relief. Previous study had demonstrated the omega-3 ability to reduce inflammation, joint stiffness and swelling.
Finally, like isoflavones, omega-3 may protect bone density. One 1997 study at Purdue University (Indiana) demonstrated that animals fed increased amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids formed new bone faster than animals fed a regular diet.
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