DENVER, Oct. 1-- Recent peer-reviewed research shows that consumption of fish or long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) may reduce the risk of death in heart disease patients and improve immune function in healthy men. New reports also indicate that fish consumption may decrease the chance of developing Alzheimer's disease or depression in older adults. The September 2003 issue of the PUFA Newsletter, a quarterly electronic publication on polyunsaturated fats, summarizes these and other research findings.
"In people with established coronary artery disease, the consumption of omega-3 LC-PUFAs can significantly and markedly reduce cardiac mortality, especially from sudden death," said Editor Joyce Nettleton, D.Sc., R.D. "These findings add to the scientific literature showing that those with higher levels of omega-3 LC-PUFAs in their blood lipids have significantly reduced risk of death from heart disease and all causes."
This month's PUFA Newsletter reports that men consuming omega-3 LC-PUFAs reduced their production of substances that mediate inflammation, while increasing production of a substance that fights infection. In a separate study, depressive patients treated with these fatty acids for eight weeks had significantly better scores on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression compared with patients receiving placebo capsules. Another study reports that the incidence of Alzheimer's disease was 60% lower in people who consumed fish once a week compared with those who rarely or never ate fish.
"Added to its known cardioprotective effects, regular fish consumption may improve quality of life and health, particularly in middle and late age," Nettleton said.
Research findings in term infants reported benefits from omega-3 fatty acid supplementation before or after birth. For example, visual acuity was significantly better in omega-3 LC-PUFA-supplemented infants after one year. Another study compared the effect of LC-PUFA-supplemented formula with standard formula on the motor activity of three-month old, healthy term infants. Significantly fewer infants receiving the supplemented formula had "mildly abnormal" movements compared with those receiving the unsupplemented formula.
"These findings underscore the importance of omega-3 LC-PUFA supplementation in fetal and infant development," Nettleton noted.
Recommendations for LC-PUFA intake from leading authorities around the world are included in the September issue of the PUFA Newsletter.