by Craig Weatherby and Randy Hartnell
If you follow the medical news—or have perused any of our recent articles about cardiovascular disease—you know that inflammation transforms cholesterol-laden arterial sludge from a theoretical threat to a confirmed killer.
The medical consensus, as described in a previous “Vital Choices” article titled “Inflammation, Disease and Omega-3s,” holds that inflammation enlarges and eventually destabilizes the fatty, cholesterol-filled arterial plaque that defines cardiovascular disease, causing it to rupture. These inflammation-driven ruptures are the immediate cause of most heart attacks. (See also two other articles in this series on omega-3s and cardiovascular health, in our May 6, 2005 edition.)
Thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties, the long-chain marine omega-3s (DHA and EPA) concentrated in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sablefish, and sardines appear to rival the life-saving powers of statins: the most effective drugs yet found for preventing heart attacks.
However, while it is clear that fish and marine omega-3s reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke very significantly, we've lacked direct evidence showing that they do so by reducing the kinds of inflammation increasingly accepted (along with high cholesterol levels) as key risk factors for heart attack.
That important data gap has been bridged, thanks to new research stemming from the ongoing ATTICA study, which involves 1,514 healthy men and 1,528 healthy women living in and around Athens, Greece. Researchers are examining these people to determine the role of a variety of dietary and lifestyle factors in raising or reducing the risk of heart disease.
About 90 percent of the ATTICA study participants reported eating fish at least once a month. Compared with those who ate little fish, the participants who ate the most fish—about 10.5 ounces per week—had much lower levels of five key markers of inflammation:
- C-reactive protein (33 percent lower)
- Interleukin-6 (33 percent lower)
- Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (21 percent lower)
- Serum amyloid A (28 percent lower)
- White blood cells (4 percent lower).
The Greek researchers also found significantly lower levels of these inflammation markers in participants who ate between five and ten ounces of fish per week.
The researchers were careful to adjust for any other factors that might reduce inflammation, including demographic and socioeconomic variables, smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes.
As the scientific team concluded, “Fish consumption was independently associated with lower inflammatory markers levels, among healthy adults. The strength and consistency of this finding has implications for public health and should be explored further.”
In an interview with the American College of Cardiology, study co-author Demosthenes Panagiotakos, Ph.D. said that these results support existing medical advice that people eat more fish: particularly oily fish offering high levels of omega-3 fatty acids:
“For the general public it could be suggested that consuming fish one or two times per week could lead to these beneficial effects found in our study. The general recommendation is to avoid frying the fish. Local small fish (like sardines) which usually is consumed with the bone are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.”
Lead author Antonis Zampelas, Ph.D., added that the results indicate that logically, omega-3 supplements should be comparably beneficial:
“We revealed that not only the fish portion, but also the amount of omega-3 fatty acids seems to play a role in the reduction of inflammatory markers levels. Therefore we can speculate that omega-3 fatty acid intake in the level of 0.6 grams [600 mg] per day could be applicable to other populations, irrespective of the source of fish,” he said.
Each 1,000 mg capsule of our supplemental Sockeye Salmon Oil contains 260 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, including 150 mg of EPA and DHA. This means that just two to four capsules provide 520 to 1,040 mg of omega-3s, or near the amount recommended by the Greek researchers.
It's also worth noting that in addition to EPA and DHA, our unique Sockeye Salmon Oil supplements contain 32 additional fatty acid molecules that may well be responsible for some of the proven health benefits of fish. You're unlikely to find this complete naturally balanced fatty acid matrix in other fish oil capsules, which are often blended, molecularly distilled and reformulated to concentrate their EPA and DHA molecules.
This standard approach elevates potency above wholeness and balance. It disregardsthe importance of 90 percent of the other molecules normally present in the oil—which millions of years of evolution deemed essential to the living organism (salmon) from which it is derived. We believe this is worth mentioning because so many studies citing the benefits of omega-3s—including the one described here—are based upon consumption of fish that contain all of these molecules in balanced proportion, not highly processed supplements missing many of them.
- Zampelas A, Panagiotakos DB, Pitsavos C, Das UN, Chrysohoou C, Skoumas Y, Stefanadis C. Fish Consumption Among Healthy Adults Is Associated With Decreased Levels of Inflammatory Markers Related to Cardiovascular Disease The ATTICA Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2005 Jul 5;46(1):120-4.
- Anti-inflammatory Effect May Help Explain Fish Benefit: Best results seen among people who ate more than half a pound of fish each week. Accessed online July 8, 2005 at http://www.acc.org/media/releases/highlights/2005/july05/fish.htm