Omega 3 Fish Oil and Heart Rate Variability

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Omega 3s and the Rhythm of Your Heart Beating

The contractile rhythms of the heart muscle are produced by synchronized waves of electrical excitation that are communicated through the heart. However, the beat of even a healthy heart is not absolutely regular. The beat varies as the cardiovascular system adjusts to moment-by-moment changes in demand. The ability of the heart to adjust its rhythms is called “heart rate variability” (HRV) and the greater the HRV the better able the heart is to fine tune its beat-to-beat timing without overreacting.

EPA and DHA work together to increase the heart muscle’s ability to respond to changing demands. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that daily dietary supplements of 800 mg of EPA plus 900 mg of DHA for 12 weeks given to a group of healthy men and women with low HRV nearly normalized this important paprameter.3 The improvements were found to be dose-dependent as greater effects were shown when even more EPA and DHA were consumed. In a separate study 6 months of dietary supplementation with fish oils (2000 mg total every day) increased HRV in elderly men and women nursing home residents.4

What is even more interesting is that supplementation with these omega-3 fats doesn’t disturb HRV in individuals with normal values. A randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial published in the American Heart Journal found that dietary supplementation with EPA (700 mg/day) and DHA (560 mg/day) for 12 weeks had no influence in middle-aged men and women with normal heart rate variability, confirming the safety of fish oil supplements when they are consumed to maintain normal heart function.5 Further research has demonstrated the superiority of fish oils over olive oil in maintaining cardiac stability.6 These studies serve to show that EPA and DHA intake has heart function modulating effects, rather than potentiating effects, meaning that omega-3 fatty acids support normalization of heart function in individuals and are not over-stimulating. This effect also points to the safety of long-term use of fish oils for cardiac support as a part of a wellness regimen.

Tomorrow’s topic: Omega 3s and the Speed of Your Heart Beating

References:
3. Christensen JH, Christensen MS, Dyerberg J, Schmidt EB. Heart rate variability and fatty acid content of blood cell membranes: A dose response study with n-3 fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70:331-337.

4. Holguin F, Tellez-Rojo MM, Lazo M, Mannino D, Schwartz J, Hernandez M, Romieu I. Cardiac autonomic changes associated with fish oil vs. soy oil supplementation in the elderly. Chest 2005;127:1102-1107.

5. Geelen A, Zock PL, Swenne CA, Brouwer IA, Schouten EG, Katan MB. Effect of n-3 fatty acids on heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity in middle-aged subjects. Am Heart J 2003;146:e4.

6. Christensen JH, Gustenhoff P, Korup E, Aaroe J, Toft E, Moller J, Rasmussen K, Dyerberg J, Schmidt EB. Effect of fish oil on heart rate variability in survivors of myocardial infarction: A double blind randomised controlled trial. BMJ 1996;312:677-678.

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Omega 3 Fish Oil and a Healthy Heart

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:

Fish Oils and a Healthy Heart

Omega-3 essential fatty acids from fish oil have an influence on the entire cardiovascular system; from their impact on how the heart beats to how much pressure your blood puts on your arteries to the health of the heart muscle itself. Proper functionality of every aspect of this system is dependent on these fatty acids in one way or another. We are all aware of the benefits of exercise on cardiovascular health. However, fish oil supplementation may have added benefits above and beyond those of exercise alone. These have been highlighted in a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.2 Researchers looked at the effects of fish oil supplementation in a group of individuals and compared this to a second group consuming fish oil and including regular exercise as a part of their daily regimen. Researchers also looked at a group consuming sunflower oil and exercising regularly, while a fourth group was designated as the control and consumed sunflower oil alone. They found that both fish oil intake and exercise independently contributed to a reduction of body fat. Fish oil also improved several measures of cardiovascular function and enhanced the health of the arteries. This highlights the beneficial effects of fish oil alone and in combination with regular exercise to support healthy cardiovascular function.

Tomorrow’s topic: Omega 3s and the Rhythm of Your Heart Beating

References:
2. Hill AM, Buckley JD, Murphy KJ, Howe PR. Combining fish oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(5):1267-74.

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Omega 3 Fish Oil: What is it?

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:

What are Fish Oils?
The two most important fish oils are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These long names reflect their chemical structures; both EPA and DHA (most people use their nicknames) are very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) commonly found in most cold-water species of ocean fish, especially tuna, salmon and mackerel. The term “omega-3” recognizes the crucial difference in structure that distinguishes them from the “omega-6 PUFA” you are used to getting from vegetable oils.

This difference is so important that the human body cannot efficiently make EPA or DHA from the other fatty acids – the fish oils are dietary essentials that must be consumed from foods or dietary supplements in order for human life to thrive. (A very small amount of EPA may be made from plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, but this process is extremely inefficient, as extra steps are required by the body to perform this conversion.) Although a little EPA can be converted to DHA, obviously it would be much more efficient to consume both preformed EPA and DHA, which are already in forms that can be incorporated into cells. Almost all of the EPA and DHA that is consumed is absorbed and a study published in the journal Circulation found that the amounts of EPA and DHA circulating in the blood and being added into your cells and tissues are directly dependent upon how much of each of these fish oils is eaten.1 When EPA and DHA reach the body’s tissues and cells they are incorporated into the structural lipids that make up cell, nuclear and mitochondrial membranes. These membranes absolutely require EPA and DHA in order to function properly – they aid in cell-to-cell communication and facilitate the flow of nutrients into cells as well as the removal of toxins from cells. Improperly incorporated fatty acids (not the preferential ones like EPA and DHA) can hinder these important cellular functions and impair cellular metabolism, leading to unhealthy cells and therefore unhealthy organs. EPA and DHA are thus essential components of every cell in the body.

Tomorrow’s topic: Fish Oils and a Healthy Heart

References:
1. Harris WS, Sands SA, Windsor SL, Ali HA, Stevens TL, Mgalski A, Porter CB, Borkon AM. Omega-3 fatty acids in cardiac biopsies from heart transplantation patients. Correlation with erythrocytes and response to supplementation. Circulation 2004;110:1645-1649.

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Omega 3 Fish Oil and a Long Healthy Life

We’re introducing a new feature to our blog. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging. If you wish, you can purchase a copy of the book by visiting: The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging
Our first topic is fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids… Here we go!
Life starts out tough (you can’t talk, you can’t move, you’re surrounded by strangers…) and only gets tougher as you get older. Was it always this way? Maybe…but then again, people used to be satisfied sitting on their porches watching the world go by after age 65. Not anymore – you want to be vibrant and active in all ways. What is the single most important thing you can do to keep the forces of nature at bay?
Of course, you can spend the rest of your life reading the many, many books out there that recommend nutritional means of achieving (they hope) “healthy aging.” And then you can spend all of your time downing dietary supplements by the handful as you try to implement all of that advice. But unless you’re addressing a very specific concern (such as poor digestion), you really want a simpler answer.
In a word (actually 4), the simple answer is: fish and fish oils.
The Oils That Form the Foundation of a Long Healthy Life
Anthropologists (not physicians or nutritionists!) first noticed that even though the Inuit, native people of Greenland, ate huge amounts of fat (from the sea animals and fish they hunted), they seemed to maintain excellent heart health. Investigations by nutrition-minded researchers led to the conclusion that there was something about the nature of all that fat they were eating that was actually protecting the Inuit from the harmful effects that would be expected if the same amount of beef fat was eaten every day.
To summarize decades of research, it turns out that it is the omega-3 fatty acids (called “fish oils” because they are mostly found in cold water ocean fish) that are the source of the “heart healthy” effects of eating ocean fish. Virtually every scientific study of these food sources published since the 1970’s has revealed yet another health benefit that can be obtained from eating fish from cold-water oceans or by dietary supplementation with their omega-3 oils. Research shows that these nutrients support more than just the heart and cardiovascular system – they can help maintain brain function, help minimize skin reactions to sunlight and other inflammatory triggers and contribute to smooth flexible movement. The avalanche of reliable scientific findings supporting these conclusions provides ample motivation for making cold-water fish and fish oils a fundamental component of your diet.
Stay tuned for more. Tomorrow’s topic: What are Fish Oils?
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