Tag Archives: omega 3

Thoughts on “Too Much Fish Oil Might Boost Prostate Cancer Risk.”

A recent headliner suggesting that fish oils could boost prostate cancer risk has stimulated understandable worries and questions from regular users of fish oil supplements and oily fish eaters. The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute using data relating to vitamin E (a synthetic form) and selenium.

In a great review of the research, Dr Mike Murray describes how researchers measured the levels of fats in the blood (plasma phospholipids) and concluded that men with the highest concentrations of EPA, DPA and DHA-three fatty acids derived from fish and fish-oil supplements-had an increased risk of prostate cancer and offers a critical analysis of the actual data to help redress the argument.

Dr Murray also highlights how many previous papers have shown a significant protective effect associated with fish oil use, I have listed the key observations from papers Dr Murray cites below;

 

1. Researchers investigated the effect of dietary fatty fish intake among 6,272 Swedish men who were followed for 30 years. Results showed that men who ate no fish had a two- to three-fold increase in the risk of developing prostate cancer compared with those who consumed large amounts of fish in their diet.
2. Data from the Physician’s Health Study, a study spanning 22 years, found that fish consumption (≥5 times per week) reduced the risk of dying from prostate cancer by 36%.
3. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health that involved 47,882 men over twelve years found that eating fish more than three times a week reduced the risk of prostate cancer but had an even greater impact on the risk of metastatic prostate cancer. For each additional 500 mg of marine fat consumed, the risk of metastatic disease decreased by 24%.
4. In one of the best-designed studies, researchers in New Zealand examined the relationship between prostate cancer risk and EPA+ DHA in red blood cells (a more reflective marker for long-term omega-3 fatty acid intake). Higher levels of EPA+DHA were associated with a 40% reduced risk of prostate cancer.
5. In a study of 47,866 US men aged 40-75 years with no cancer history in 1986 who were followed for 14 years EPA+DHA intake at the highest levels was associated with a 26% reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.

 

Before jumping to the wrong conclusions regarding your fish oil intake I strongly suggest you read Dr Murray’s commentary today by clicking here.

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TAV issue 7 now available to download

Hi all,

Just a quick post to announce that the latest issue of our Newsletter, The Alternative View (aka TAV) is available for download from the clinics web site, simply click here.

In this issue we take a look a special non-invasive test to differentiate inflammatory (colitis in its va

rious forms) from functional (irritable) bowel problems. Using the calprotectin test we can now predict when a flare may occur and diagnose with confidence IBS.

Other stories look at the benefit of a low carbohydrate diet in cholesterol levels and the latest supplement technology that allows us to deliver all the beneficial fatty acids associated with fish oil in a 100% vegan and vegetarian friendly form.

Take a moment and down load TAV issue 7, we welcome your comments and views.

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Eat well to heal well

Most of us never give a second thought to the healing process, we get an injury and it heals up; simple. What we neglect to appreciate is just how complex and well orchestrated the healing process actually is. If any step along the way is defective or interrupted the healing process can become delayed and problems can ensue.

When we damage any tissue in the body the natural process of wound healing jumps in and immediately starts to clear things up. The damaged tissues need to be replaced with new. This process demands the use of precious raw materials such as proteins, specific nutrients and energy in the form of calories to fuel the mechanisms of repair. Even following a small wound the natural reaction of the body is to stimulate the metabolism as part of a stress reaction. In this situation the term stress does not imply the anxiety reaction commonly associated with the phrase but refers to the biological and hormonal stress reaction that places specific demands (stress) on the body. This early phase of wound healing is technically known as the ‘catabolic phase’ because it is characterized by a breakdown of tissue. During this time water can be used at an increased rate along with an increased release of energy from food or stored body fat. In very undernourished individuals, with low body fat, muscle may be broken down for energy. This situation is not good because it starves the healing wound of much needed proteins (since they are being ‘burnt’ to provide energy) when they should be being utilized for the healing process. In such cases, delayed wound healing is the inevitable result.

Common problems that are associated with delayed wound healing

  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Liver disease
  • Smoking
  • Kidney disease
  • Poor circulation
  • Poor nutrition
  • Weak immune system
  • Inflammatory disease
  • Being over 65 years old

The importance of protein

Without a good protein supply wounds will not heal well at all. Reduced intake of protein will decrease the production of collagen; the ‘glue’ that literally holds us together. Most diets deliver adequate proteins but over phases of wound healing special attention should be given to high protein foods like grains, seeds, nuts, eggs, fish, meat and if you are not sensitive to it dairy foods.

L-Arginine is an important amino acid found in many protein foods. It’s a vital ingredient for the production of proteins structures needed for repair and a strong healed wound. Supplements containing L-Arginine have been shown to promote collagen production and accelerate the healthy healing of many kinds of soft tissue (skin, muscle, tendon) injuries. Another key amino acid needed for healing is L-Glutamine which is also needed for optimal collagen production. Using a supplement containing these saves the body from mobilizing them from muscle tissue and ensures a ready and adequate supply.

The importance of fats

Fats get a bad press but we do know that there are good and bad fats. All the cells in our body have a fat membrane that keeps the tissues flexible. Making sure that you get enough good fat in the diet can make a big difference to the healing process. There is no need to take excessive amounts of additional oils but 500-1000 mg of flax oil per day would be adequate. Taking too much omega-3 oil (eg. high strength fish oil) may actually reduce the strength of a healed wound.

The importance of carbohydrates

Energy is the currency needed to heal a wound. Carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, cereals, brown rice and potatoes deliver plenty of starch that is readily metabolized into energy for life and healing. However, diabetics need t take care not to radically change their carbohydrate intake without supervision.

How about vitamins and minerals

Balanced diets should deliver all the nutrients needed but some nutrients do appear more important to boost wound healing. It may come as no surprise that vitamin C demands increase. This vitamin is needed for collagen production and immune support. Poor healed wounds and wound infection is associated with low vitamin C levels or intake. The same can be said about vitamin A but this nutrient should only be taken in the form of beta carotene because of the potential for toxic side effects from pure vitamin A (retinol). Eating plenty of coloured fruits and vegetables will boost the dietary levels and a supplement may help as well. Of all the minerals available to the body a healing wound demands extra zinc and iron. Unless anaemic, the body has good stores of iron and supplements are not recommended because of the risk of iron overload (toxicity) or more commonly bowel upset. Supplementation with zinc on the other hand may offer some additional benefit. Slow to heal wounds have been shown to improve with the use of additional zinc and by increasing the intake of key zinc foods such as fish, eggs and shellfish. Eating more red meat, eggs, dried fruit and dark green vegetables can boost dietary iron.

In general wounds healing can be significantly improved by careful attention to diet and fluid intake; it may sound simple but it’s a vital step and makes all the difference between a well healed or poorly healed wound. The preparation ST-Repair will deliver the key additional nutrients L-Arginine, L-Glutamine, vitamin C, beta carotene and zinc in the form of a supplement that have all been associated with optimal healing. Whether you have a surgical wound that needs healing, a sports injury or other soft tissue strain never forget the importance of food and nutrients in the process of healthy tissue repair.

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Feeding your Brain

Food, Mood, the Brain and Beyond
“We used to think our future was in the stars. Now we know it’s in our genes”
James Watson Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of DNA

There is growing evidence that eating the correct diet may help prevent many disorders of the mind such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, dementia and autism but just how powerful is our diet compared to our genetic constitution? Viewed another way, maybe we should be considering the combined power of our genetic make up and diet since genes for certain disorders may only express themselves in special situations. For example, I think many psychiatrists agree that certain people have addictive personalities. In the presence of excess alcohol the gene expresses itself and the person becomes an alcoholic. What is interesting is the fact that most reformed alcoholics often turn to another addiction such as smoking or eating to fill the gap in their lives. Those who win through and turn their backs on destructive addictions may find themselves following strict religious or work-based pursuits. Just as humans can become addicted to alcohol so to can they become addicted to drugs. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests our genetics are at the root of these evils.

Studies of brains from alcohol addicts show that they have fewer dopamine receptors than non-alcoholics; maybe this was genetically determined. Genes have also been implicated in smokers. In one study of 283 smokers over one third had an unusual gene that was not present in non-smokers. The gene, named D-2, was also found to be responsible for the low number of dopamine receptors discovered in the brains of alcoholics. Now we can start to see a strong genetic link developing between the two addictive personalities. With one gene defect we can see two very different addictive behaviours and potential life style and health outcomes. Our addicts may be viewed as “medicating” themselves since both alcohol and smoking will elevate the dopamine levels (by blocking its re-uptake) and stimulate the pleasure centres deep within the brain. So to will certain foods such as carbohydrates since the release of another happy hormone, serotonin occurs.

When it comes to a discussion on diet and health the human brain must feel a bit left out. We are all aware that certain foods and vitamins feed our skin, a low animal fat diet is good for the heart, drinking plenty of water helps our kidneys and our bones benefit from extra calcium whilst the joints often feel better for a oiling up with a daily dose of cod liver oil. What about our brains – they have very special needs but how many of us give this amazing structure a second thought?

Compared to the lightweight brain our closest ancestors, the monkeys, which weigh about 105 grams the average human brain weighs in at a colossal 1350 grams. From a developmental point of view it is the first tissue to develop, at about 16 days after conception. Eating well is vital if you are trying to conceive since you may not be aware that you are pregnant by the time your babies brain has started to develop!

Even though the adult brain forms only 2% of our body weight it receives over 15% of the blood pumped from the heart and consumes well over 20% of the total body oxygen and glucose used each day. Such a high blood supply and fuel consumption shows how essential fresh supplies of brain food are for healthy brain function. However, don’t forget that the feeding of a healthy brain starts before birth!

It has been said that the seeds of good adult health are sown before conception, during pregnancy and during infancy. The seeds of health being the specific nutrients contained in our daily diet. It has been recently been discovered that certain oils (belonging to the fat family known as “omega-3’s”) are essential for the normal development of the brain and nervous system during pregnancy. This reliance on the omega-3 fats continues for the first couple of years of life. One specific member of this fat family known as docosahexaenoic acid or DHA for short, has the ability to stimulate the growth of the retina (the light sensitive inner part of the eye) and the brain itself. DHA can, therefore, be considered to be a specific brain nutrient. Apart from the brain DHA plays an important function in the correct functioning of the immune system.

The developing baby is reliant on it’s mother for an adequate DHA supply. Dietary intake accounts for the majority of DHA used by the baby and obtained through the placenta and later on in the breast milk. Many formula milk are very low in DHA. In fact the fat content of most formula feeds are based in commercially processed oils which contain high levels of potentially damaging fats known as “trans fatty acids”. It has been estimated that breast milk contains over 30% more DHA than formula feeds; breast is always best!

Just take a trip around any supermarket and you will be confronted with an enormous and ever-growing variety of low-fat or fat-free food products. These foods are being aimed at our obsession with low fat diets promoted by the media. With our ever growing knowledge about the importance of essential fatty acids it is questionable if this new style of eating is the healthy option it is made out to be. However, this is not an invitation to throw caution to the wind and pig out fatty foods. I would still advise moderation in animal (saturated) fats while increasing oily fish, and foods high in monounsaturated fats – the good fats!

The shift in modern eating habits is causing serious concerns regarding the growing followers of the low-fat culture. This diet trend is causing a drop in the essential fatty acid intake in the general population. Most worrying is the potential adverse effects this may have on mothers to be and their babies developing nervous system.

Recently, an item of news announced the fact that the brains of pregnant women shrank over the cause of their pregnancy. The study was carried out at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School. The scientists were investigating the causes of pregnancy related blood pressure problems when they stumbled across the unexpected finding showing that the brains of the women they were studying were shrinking. The investigating team discovered that the mothers were deficient in essential fatty acids that were needed by the developing babies brain and nervous system. Such was the demand that the stores contained in the mothers brain were mobilised into the general circulation for delivery to the developing baby. The adult brain is a rich reserve pool of these special fats. Happily, however, the brains returned to normal after 6 – 10 months but the fact remains that the reserve pool was tapped into demonstrating the absolute necessity for these fatty acids.

It is common knowledge that folic acid is essential for the healthy formation of the nervous system. Most pregnant mothers are now given tablets of 400 mcg folic acid to prevent spina bifida, but what about oil supplements?

Deficiencies of the omega 3 family can lead to learning difficulties because of their importance in the development of the nervous system but because learning and behavioural problems are only normally noticed some years after birth and are not life threatening, unlike spina bifida, it has not prompted much attention. There is a popular misconception that fats act as nothing more than storage systems for energy or as packing material. Only recently has it become acknowledged that fats have a very significant role in the metabolism and development of the body. There is a clear need for a greater understanding of the role of fatty acid metabolism in the maintenance of cell membrane health. There is evidence accumulating that any dietary programme aimed at helping an autistic child should involve a balance of both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids rather than gross overloading of one form . Evening Primrose Oil consists largely of Gamma Linolenic Acid, an Omega 6 acid. There are other, richer sources of Gamma Linolenic Acid, such as Borage (Star Flower) Oil but it is claimed that this is less well tolerated than the oil from Evening Primrose. Fish oils such as Cod liver oil have the added advantage of including supplementary Vitamin A, which is likely to be, is short supply in people with autism.

Flax seed oil is a rich source of Omega 3 acids. A daily dose of flaxseed oil will re-balance the situation. Taken at a dose of 1 – 2 grams a day it will provide all the necessary fatty acids needed for health. Flaxseed oil is a richer supply of omega 3’s than fish oil, almost twice as concentrated in fact. From the high content of linolenic acid contained in flax oil the body can make all the DHA it needs.

The adult brain is not a static structure. Our ideas about the brain have changed since the early days of neurology and its plasticity (the ability to change and adapt to different situations) has now been appreciated.

The chemical environment of the brain is all important. Even minor nutritional deficiencies can major implications on healthy brain function. It has been noted that symptoms of dementia can occur long before the levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid are shown to be low in blood tests. The findings of vitamin B12 deficiency is not uncommon in Alzheimer’s disease further supporting the importance for a good nutritional balance. Unfortunately by the time symptoms start to be noticed supplementation may come too late. A long term minor deficiency has been suggested to cause slow and irreversible changes in the nervous tissue that is unresponsive to corrective supplementation.

As with many nutritional substances there is a good deal of interaction between the food chemicals that enter the brain. Vitamin C, for example, plays an essential part in the healthy actions of another important brain food, the amino acid known as phenylalanine. Phenylalanine works to produce nerve transmitting substances (called neurotransmitters) which regulate the electrical activity of the brain.

Neurotransmitters are responsible for an elevated and positive mood, alertness and mental well being, a lack causes many brain disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

As well as vitamin C the mineral zinc has a part to play in mental health. It has been noticed that many people suffering from irritability, nervousness and anxiety have higher than normal levels of copper circulating in their bodies. Copper and zinc have an interesting relationship in that a deficiency of zinc causes an excess of copper to accumulate. Supplementing your diet with zinc can help re-balance the situation but care must be taken to avoid taking too much zinc which will cause a copper deficiency! It is best to take professional advice before taking large doses of zinc but a 15mg daily dose is considered quite safe for general uses.

Zinc has been studied in great detail and a team at the University of Michigan has shown a significant relationship between high academic grades and high zinc levels. Zinc deficiency is prevalent in our society mainly because of poor soil quality, food processing and bad cooking techniques.
Just like a fire an epileptic fit starts with a single spark, but the spark in this case is an abnormal brain impulse. The neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyrate acid or GABA for short plays a key role in controlling brain impulses. GABA is the most prevalent transmitter substance in the brain and has many functions, the most important of which is a calming effect over the nervous system.

The brain of epileptics, hyperactive children, insomniacs, cerebral palsy sufferers, hypertensives, anxiety sufferers and those with learning problems, anti-social behaviour and mental retardation all benefit from elevating the GABA levels. GABA has no serious side effects even in doses of up to 40 grams (the normal dose ranges from 250 mcg – 1,000 mcg daily).

It is interesting to note that zinc again makes an appearance in the natural treatment of epilepsy. Zinc is needed for the production of GABA, along with another amino acid called glutamic acid. Numerous experiments have shown that a zinc deficient diet aggravates epilepsy and causes more frequent fits and seizures.

So far it can be seen that we need adequate zinc, glutamic acid and vitamin C for the correct balanced production of neurotransmitters but the list does not stop there. Vitamin B6 acts as a special co-factor and helps convert the glutamic acid into GABA. If this vitamin is low in the diet, despite of adequate amounts of zinc, vitamin C and glutamic acid, the reactions will not occur and GABA levels will fall.

The major structural fats found in the brain are called phospholipids. One particular phospholipid known as phosphatidylserine appears to be important in the control of mood and mood related problems. Normally this substance is produced naturally in the brain but in individuals who have deficiencies of vitamin B12, folic acid and other essential fatty acids the production of phosphatidylserine is dramatically reduced. Low levels are often found in the brains of elderly subjects but it’s concentration in younger people may be directly related to depressive mood states.

The primary use of phosphatidylserine in nutritional medicine is in the treatment of depression and impaired mental function in the elderly. Very good results have been obtained in a number of studies. Supplementing the diet with phosphatidylserine appears to improve neurotransmitter release (especially acetylcholine), memory and age related changes.

How phosphatidylserine aids in the treatment of depression is unknown. It does not affect serotonin levels like classic antidepressants nor does it interfere with other neurotransmitters. Phosphatidylserine does, however, improve the quality of brain cell membranes and helps control the levels of cortisol, a hormone released from the adrenal glands which has been found to be elevated in depressed subjects.

All in all, there is much evidence to suggest that the brain needs specific nutrients and it responds very well to corrective supplements. Feeding your brain well will make sure that it functions optimally and guarantees that long term deficiency symptoms do not occur. Such symptoms are so slow in developing that they are often written off as being age related changes for which nothing can be done. This is just not satisfactory when prevention is so easily achieved by a knowledge of what to feed your brain with.

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A New Look at Hyperactivity in Children

Food additives and hyperactivity – a new look at an old problem

We have all experienced the problem either with our own children or with a friends; behaviour and mood rapidly changing after eating processed or highly coloured food. Naturally we make the knee jerk judgement and commit that food to the growing list of culprits responsible for turning our kids into little monsters. Few would question the benefit of changing our children’s diets for ones higher in fresh natural foods whilst avoiding the potential chemical time bombs of processed food but is there any actual evidence to say that these foods are the real triggers?
This was the topic in a recent editorial published in the British Medical Journal. When a study involving some 297 children aged between 3 and 9 were analysed some interesting results came to light. One of the key factors in this study was the fact that unlike many other investigations none of the children in this cross section had any previous diagnosis of attention-deficit or hyperactivity disorder. Despite this the results still showed an adverse effect on behaviour with an intake of additives equivalent to that found in two 56 g bag of sweets.
No one can agree – who can you trust?
Following the publication of this study the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) soon jumped in and rejected the claims in news articles that two mixtures of food colours along with the preservative sodium benzoate had any adverse effect on behaviour. However, following a re-analysis of the results the EFSA was forced to revise their view and had to re-publish their comments. The EFAS panel discovered that the figures they questioned did actually mirror the results of the original study. Their final comment on the subject was characteristically low key; “the study provides limited evidence that the two different mixtures had a small and statistically significant effect on activity and attention” This statement, as low key as it may appear, is an important step forward because if additives alters the behaviour of normal children, even in a small way, the study has profound implications for children with hyperactivity who are far more sensitive to many things including chemicals. It is true to say that food and additives are not the prime cause of behavioural problems in hyperactive children, the condition is complex and highly individual, but anecdotal reports from parents, teachers and health professionals do point a finger most certainly at foods as potent triggers. Sadly, eliminating colourings and preservatives are still regarded by some as an alternative rather than a standard approach. In light of the current studies and years of almost impossible to avoid anecdotal accounts it is difficult to understand why simply improving the diet and removing “junk” needs so much science to support its use. Despite this, the two-pronged conventional approach is still firmly entrenched primarily in drug therapy and sometimes referral for behavioural therapy. With the growing bank of evidence to support the role of diet modification it is surprising that this simple task is not tackled from the onset keeping in mind that there is, in fact, less evidence published for the benefits of behavioural therapy! This probably explains why around 50% of children attending specilist medical clinics also concurrently use alternative medicines.

The additives defiantly to avoid
Sunset yellow (E110) – Colouring found in squashes
Carmoisine (E122) – Red colouring in jellies
Tartrazine (E102) – New colouring in lollies, fizzy drinks
Ponceau 4R (E124) – Red colouringSodium benzoate (E211) – Preservative
Quinoline yellow (E104) – Food colouring
Allura red AC (E129) – Orange / red food dye

What else can be done?
A quick check of the internet will yield a plethora of cures and remedies for ADHD and hyperactivity disorders. A simple Google search for “ADAH products” narrowed down to UK sites only resulted in 81,800 sites coming up!
Among the many sites there is some good information and within this information can be found some guiding lights in the grey area that lies between alternative and conventional medicine. One such beacon in the mist is Dr Jeff Bradstreet MD. Jeff is a family doctor based in Florida where is founded the International Child Development Resource Centre. As well as his clinical work he is also a Professor of Neuroscience at Stetson University, Florida and the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Phoenix Arizona. With his feet firmly in two camps, the conventional and naturopathic, Dr Bradstreet is well placed to push nutritional research forward in the management of ADHD and hyperactivity.
Over the years Dr Bradstreet has found few nutrients that have been of particularly helpful to children with behavioural issues. In addition to the much publicised omega-3 fish oils these include phosphatidylserine (PS), the amino acids taurine and L-theanine as well as the powerful antioxidant N-acetylcysteine and the nutrient dimethylaminethanol (DMAE).
Getting the balance right
Interestingly, two of these nutrients naturally work very closely within the body, in fact PS is made DMAE. It has long been known that PS forms a vital building block supporting the structure of every cell in the body as well as playing an important role in the production of chemical substances needed for healthy and balanced nerve function. Known as neurotransmitters, these substances regulate the activity of the brain and are known to be out of balance in cases of ADHD and hyperactivity. In one study 75% of children who took PS supplements experienced increased levels of focus and attention. By using both PS and DMAE together those with poor ability to absorb and metabolise PS can still benefit since once within the body DMAE can be converted into PS. For children attending school it is good to know that neither PS or DMAE have ever caused drowsiness or reduced alertness.
Boost those alpha-waves
In all cases of ADHD and hyperactivity management the biggest problem facing parents and children alike is the common side effect of drowsiness associated with prescribed drugs. Getting the balance right is not easy, an over excited brain can’t be expected to focus on the task in hand or conform to the rigours of school or modern life.
In seeking a remedy for this Green tea appeared to offer an answer. The soothing and relaxing effects associated with Green tea are derived from its L-theanine content. This amino acid, once isolated and purified, has become a popular supplement with people suffering from anxiety and stress related problems since it produces a relaxed state of mind with no drowsiness. It was finally discovered that L-theanine enhanced the brains alpha-waves. A brain with good alpha-wave activity is associated with a state of relaxed alertness. By applying this knowledge L-theanine has been of great help to children with hyperactive behaviour and poor focus. It is a very safe supplement and well tolerated. Depending on age, 100mg taken up to three times a day appears to offer effective support. L-theanine is also found in Dr Bradstreets own formula that combines all the above into a convenient supplement.
Putting it all together
No one can say that they have the universal remedy for ADHD or hyperactivity, the condition is far to complex for any one remedy or life style adjustment to work in isolation or universally. However, the evidence is mounting from UK studies into the effects of diet manipulation while in America the nutritional supplement research is laying the foundations for additional measures. By blending the two approaches overall health can only bee seen to benefit from improved food intake and optimal nutritional support.

Links
Dr Jeff Bradstreet
Recommended UK supplements web site
Recommended USA supplements web site
North London Natural Health Clinic
Scotland based Natural Health Clinic

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