Omega-3 Fats Benefit People of Many Ages and Health Conditions

DENVER, Dec. 22-- Current peer-reviewed research shows that consumption of fatty fish or long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LC-PUFAs) benefits a range of human groups, from pre-term infants to older adults. Healthy and seriously ill people, smokers, and elite athletes with exercise-induced asthma are all positively affected by these essential nutrients. The December 2003 issue of the PUFA Newsletter, a quarterly electronic publication, summarizes recent studies correlating n-3 LC-PUFAs with reduced risk of certain medical conditions, improved vascular function in adults, and healthy infant development among other benefits.

One study shows that Japanese smokers who consumed fish three or more times/week had a 68% lower risk of developing lung cancer. All cooking preparations including deep-frying were associated with reduced risk.

"Given the high prevalence of smoking among Japanese, these findings are remarkable," said PUFA Newsletter Editor Joyce Nettleton, D.Sc., R.D.

Another study showed that maternal smoking adversely affects the content of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a major n-3 LC-PUFA, in breast milk, particularly during early lactation.

"Considered along with the known adverse effects of smoking on the mother's health and fetal development, this study adds another reason for pregnant women to avoid smoking altogether," Nettleton noted.

Elite athletes with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction who consumed n-3 LC-PUFAs experienced a dramatic improvement in their pulmonary function, according to a recent study. Measures of pulmonary function in these athletes were similar to those of athletes without breathing difficulties. Supplementation with n-3 LC-PUFAs decreased the production and excretion of several pro-inflammatory substances prior to and following exercise.

"This study is the first demonstration that consumption of n-3 LC-PUFAs reduces the severity of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in elite athletes," Nettleton said.

Another unprecedented study investigated whether the demonstrated improvements in vascular function in people with cardiovascular disease consuming n-3 LC-PUFAs also occur in healthy adults. It found that n-3 LC- PUFA supplementation, particularly DHA, indeed has the same positive effect in healthy, middle-aged adults.

Pre-term infants particularly benefit from n-3 LC-PUFAs for various reasons. One is observed in a study that correlates the development of optimal retinal composition and function with DHA supplementation in pre-term and term infant formula.

Sponsored by DSM Nutritional Products (formerly Roche Vitamins, Ltd.), the PUFA Newsletter is available online at and by complimentary subscription at .


Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.