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 Post subject: Feature: A rich source of health
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 11, 2006 1:55 am 
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Feature: A rich source of health

Who’d have thought it? Ten years ago, cod liver oil, herrings and pilchards were all a bit of a nasty, smelly, fish joke. How all that’s changed. Oily fish — such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and, yes, pilchards — and the omega 3 oils they contain have become the biggest, sexiest thing in the health-food industry.

We have smartly packaged capsules for adults, and fruity omega oil sweeties for children. Omega 3 has been added to all sorts of foodstuffs, including milk, yoghurt and eggs. And as stocks of other fish fall, the humble sardine and mackerel are becoming the darlings of the trendy restaurateur.

What has wrought this remarkable turnaround? The answer, for once, is not marketing but a sudden plethora of good scientific evidence that omega-3 oils, particularly those found naturally in oily fish — there are also vegetarian equivalents found in flaxseed and rape seed — really do you a lot of good. In three areas in particular, omega 3 seems to make a unique impact: heart disease, joint pain and brain performance.

Research has shown that these oils reduce the levels of unhealthy blood fats (triglycerides), raise levels of the healthy variety of cholesterol (high density lipoprotein), lower blood pressure, decrease the likelihood of blood clots and reduce inflammation.

This is good news for preventing stroke, heart disease and arthritis. A recent trial involving 2,033 Welsh men who had suffered heart attacks was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers found that the death rate in those subsequently advised to eat oily fish was 29 per cent lower than in the others.

There is also evidence that omega 3 helps people with inflammatory joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Ten trials in 1995 concluded that taken for three months, they brought a reduction in joint tenderness and stiffness.

And then, perhaps most spectacularly, there’s the evidence that they actually seem to increase brainpower — in children at least. This is thought to be because the fatty acids contained in omega 3 are important structural components of cell membranes, particularly in the brain and retina, and essential for the formation of new tissue.

So early results from a large trial conducted by Middlesbrough Education Authority on the effect of omega-3 supplements on children’s reading, spelling and behaviour indicate that children of all abilities improve and their reading age consistently goes up.

So what’s the best way to take your omega 3? Unless you eat salmon, mackerel or herring several times a week, you’re unlikely to be getting enough of the key types of omega-3 fatty acids that are so important in cell formation. That’s why a daily omega-3 supplement offers such a convenient option.

For more: The Times/Healthy Living


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