Top researchers quoted as deploring authorities' failure to push for increased omega-3 intake
by Craig Weatherby
We want to applaud Men’s Health magazine for publishing the best omega-3 article we’ve seen in any publication intended for non-scientists.
The article's key point is summarized in this excerpt: “Scientists worldwide are praising a nutrient so powerful that it may help combat dozens of diseases. But don't expect an endorsement from our policy makers: They say we can do without.”
The Men’s Health piece—titled “The Government's Big Fish Story”—begins dramatically, with the story of Randal McCloy, the sole survivor of last year’s Sago Coal Mine disaster in West Virginia (He's pictured at left, between two of his doctors).
Mr. McCloy suffered extreme carbon monoxide exposure, which normally results in severe brain damage. While Mr. MCloy received the standard interventions, including hyperbaric oxygen treatment, these were not expected to prevent serious disability.
Instead, his neurosurgeon—Julian Bailes, M.D. of West Virginia University—believes the miner was spared only by the unprecedented decision to administer very high doses of omega-3 fish oil.
Dr. Bailes said McCloy had almost no measurable brain activity until they started feeding him fish oil through a tube, which provided huge doses of the two key omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).
As the authors of the Men’s Health article wrote, “… unexpectedly, McCloy emerged from his coma. This in itself was amazing, but he wasn't done. In the weeks that followed, he stunned even the most optimistic experts by recovering his memory and gradually regaining his ability to walk, talk, and see, a turnaround that many in the medical field called miraculous.”
The conclusion of this part of the article is worth quoting: “’The omega-3s helped rebuild the damaged gray and white matter of his brain,’ says Dr. Bailes, who now takes his own medicine, swallowing a fish-oil supplement each morning. On his orders, McCloy, still recuperating at home, continues to take fish oil daily. ‘I would say he should be on it for a lifetime,’ says Dr. Bailes. ‘But then, I think everybody should.’”
(Large amounts of omega-3 DHA accumulate in the brain’s grey matter during fetal and infant development. And research supports its ongoing importance to the tissues of adult brains: see “Omega-3s Display More Brain-Mood Benefits” and “Mental Decline Slowed by Omega-3s”).
Researchers interviewed by Men's Health deplored the failure of health authorities to advocate assertively for increased intake of omega-3s.
And unlike most popular articles on omega-3s, this one stresses the importance of decreasing Americans' intake of omega-6 fatty acids.
These pro-inflammatory, omega-3-blocking fats dominate American diets, thanks to their heavy presence in standard meats and poultry and in cheap vegetable oils (corn, soy, cottonseed, canola, sunflower, safflower) and the processed and prepared foods that contain them.
The only way you’d get more essential information would be by reading the recent, definitive book by New York Times science contributor Susan Allport, titled Queen of Fats (see “Queen of Fats Tells Exciting, Untold Omega-3 Story” and “The Queen of Fats: Part II of Our Review”) and by diving deep into our Vital Choices newsletter archives.
We urge you to read this incredibly informative, wonderfully written article (which we've posted online) and pass it on to friends and family. To access it, click on the article title above or below, and save or open it.
In addition to addressing some of the most fascinating aspects of omega-3s in human biology and evolution, the piece summarizes the adverse impacts of America’s gross omega-3/omega-6 intake imbalance, the evidence of omega-3s’ effects on major health conditions, and includes recommendations on supplemental omega-3s.
The article features cogent quotes from interviews with a number of leading researchers, including renowned omega-3 scientist William E. Lands, Ph.D., who has responded graciously to our requests for guidance concerning omega-3 fatty acids in human health.
Dr. Lands discovered many of the basic functions of omega-3s as a former Professor at the Michigan Medical School and Director of Basic Research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He also authored an indispensable reference book titled Fish, Omega-3s, and Human Health.
We hope you will get a chance to read “The Government's Big Fish Story”, and share it widely!
- Erdely SR, Watkins D. The Government's Big Fish Story. Accessed online August 7, 2007 at http://health.msn.com/general/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100166680>1=10212
- Innis SM. Polyunsaturated fatty acids in human milk: an essential role in infant development. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2004;554:27-43. Review.
- Wainwright PE. Dietary essential fatty acids and brain function: a developmental perspective on mechanisms. Proc Nutr Soc. 2002 Feb;61(1):61-9. Revie
- United Press International. Omega-3 credited in miner's recovery. Accessed online August 10, 2007 at http://www.sciencedaily.com/upi/?feed=TopNews&article=UPI-1-20070727-01004600-bc-us-sagosurvivor.xml