• Gut Health
  • Heart Health
    • Heart Health

      The stats tell it all: The number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. That’s right, more than any other disease – even cancer (a close second) – heart disease is the most likely to kill you. The United States is currently facing a “diabesity” epidemic, or a substantial increase in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes and obesity, all serious risk factors for heart disease.

      According to the American Heart Association, every 34 seconds someone in the US dies of a heart attack. By the time you finish reading this paragraph, another person will have lost their life. Sadly, many people do not even know they have heart disease until they experience a heart attack. These facts alone make Heart Health a critical topic to understand.

  • Skin Health
    • Skin Health

      The gut-skin connection is very significant. Inflammatory processes present in the gut may manifest on the skin. Toxins are expelled with sweat, and can cause the skin to react. Like the inside of the digestive tract, the skin is covered in microbes which can be neutral, protective or pathogenic. Skin reaction may reflect what is going on inside the body. Therefore treating skin conditions only from the outside will often be ineffective and lead to other chronic issues.

  • Brain Health
    • Brain Health

      The gut-brain connection occurs in two directions—from the brain to the gut, and from the gut to the brain. When a person has a “gut feeling,” or an emotional upset causes a stomachache or loss of appetite, they experience examples of the first, most familiar direction. When the gut is out of balance, inflammation results leading to a condition commonly known as leaky gut. A leaky gut will allow undigested food particles and toxins to enter into the bloodstream. Some may cross into the brain, setting the stage for diseases like Alzheimers and dementia. Recognizing the underlying contributing factors that created the gut imbalance in the first place is the first step to achieving optimal brain function .

  • Diet & Health
    • Diet & Health

      Healthy pH levels, whether in the colon or systemic, are found when you eat a high-fiber diet, high in vegetables and fruits, healthy proteins, and healthy fats. Complement this with foods and supplements high in beneficial bacteria, omega-3 fatty acids, and digestive enzymes, and you will be supporting optimal health (which begins in the digestive system).

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Good Fats, Bad Fats

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/31/2012


Although many people consider all fats as bad fats, this simply is not the case. Certain types of fats have been linked to the development of chronic diseases, and other fats have been linked to good health. It is clear that not all fats are created equal. But why is that? What happens in the body that produces such a difference in health? A recent study published in The Quarterly Review of Biology suggests that the way different fats interact with our gut microbes may be the answer.

As the Diva of Digestion, this study certainly piqued my interest. The researchers found that saturated fats encourage the growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive system, and our bodies launch an immune response against this, which creates a low level of inflammation. When this low-grade inflammation occurs chronically, disease develops. This is the gut connection, folks. This is a prime example of how gut imbalance can contribute to chronic disease.

Other fats (mostly unsaturated fats), the researchers found, have strong antimicrobial properties, helping to weaken bacteria. Joe Alcock, the lead researcher, explained, “If you expose unsaturated fats on bacteria, the bacteria have a tendency to lyse [disintegrate]. The combination of long chain unsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, and innate host defenses like gastric acid and antimicrobial peptides, is particularly lethal to pathogenic bacteria.”

Saturated fats, on the other hand, lack these properties, and can even help harmful bacteria flourish. “We found a highly significant relationship between those fats that had antimicrobial properties and those that had anti-inflammatory properties. Fats that lack antimicrobial properties tended to be pro-inflammatory. It was a very, very strong relationship,” stated Alcock.

The researchers call for more studies to confirm and build upon the current research. “We have a pretty good idea that eating fatty foods encourages the growth and invasiveness of harmful microbiota and we know that certain fats kill off these potentially harmful species. But we’re making a bit of a leap from the Petri dish to the whole organism.” While we wait for more research, we do know that minimizing saturated fats and eating more omega-3 fats is best.

Heart of Perfect Health Fish Oil Recommendations

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/28/2012


In my new PBS special, Heart of Perfect Health, I tell viewers to look for four things in a fish oil supplement:

  • 1000 mg of Omega-3 per softgel
  • Enteric coating
  • IFOS (International Fish Oil Standard) seal for purity, potency, and freshness
  • Added Vitamin D

1000 mg Omega-3. There are many fish oil products on the market and many of them, unfortunately, are misleading. For example, just because you are taking 1000 mg of fish oil doesn’t mean you are getting 1000 mg of omega-3. Further, just because you are getting a certain amount of omega-3 per serving doesn’t mean you’re getting that amount per softgel! Make sure the serving size is one capsule or you’ll have to take twice as much to get the same amount of omega-3. You must read the label! Look for the amount of Omega-3 per capsule to know how much you are really getting.

Enteric coating. Most fish oil supplements are not enteric coated. Yet enteric coating helps deliver the fish oil to your intestines, where they are absorbed and utilized. Enteric coating of a high-quality fish oil supplement ensures a burp-free experience with no fishy aftertaste, and it helps enhance absorption of the fish oils

IFOS seal—International Fish Oil Standards. It’s a simple fact that our oceans are polluted and our fish are contaminated with toxins. That’s why taking a purified fish oil is an excellent way to get your omega-3s without concern about excess toxins. The IFOS seal assures you that your fish oil exceeds world standards for purity, potency, and freshness.

Vitamin D. The majority of Americans have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D, and many do not know it. While the Institute of Medicine recommends a scant 600 IU of vitamin D daily, this is far too little according to many experts. I’ll refer you to the Vitamin D Council for some great information on the subject. I am trying to raise awareness about this vital nutrient because it is often overlooked. I recommend vitamin D as a component of fish oil because of its importance to overall health. I also recommend, in my books and blog, that people get their vitamin D levels checked regularly. An optimal vitamin D levels is key.

Vin Kutty from OmegaVia recently applauded three out of four of my recommendations on what to look for in a fish oil product. He didn’t agree about added vitamin D, however. He made some valid points, especially when it comes to testing your vitamin D level, but I still believe that 1000 IU added to a quality fish oil supplement is helpful. People simply aren’t getting enough. I want to help people understand that. Glad we’re (mostly) on the same page, Vin. Thanks for the mention.

Altered Gut Microbiome Linked to Heart Disease and Stroke

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 12/26/2012


The gut connection to overall health, a connection Brenda and I have been exploring and educating about for many years, is growing stronger every day. Week after week, researchers around the world are linking digestive function—usually gut bacterial balance—to a range of health conditions in many different areas of the body. Particularly interesting have been the links between heart health and gut health. Brenda has blogged on a couple of these connections along the way, and many more are mentioned in our last two books, The Road to Perfect Health, and Heart of Perfect Health.

The connection between the gut microbiome and human health is currently being explored as part of the Human Microbiome Project, which I blogged about not long ago. This project has inspired a new wave of research into the effects of the gut microbiome and is delivering interesting findings. In a new study from Sweden published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers compared the gut microbiome of stroke patients to that of healthy subjects, and found some major differences.1

One interesting difference they found was that genes in bacteria required for the production of carotenoids—a group of antioxidants that includes beta carotene—were more frequently found in healthy subjects, who also had higher levels of beta carotene in the blood, when compared to stroke patients. This is interesting in light of the fact that some studies looking at the effects of beta carotene supplementation for heart health have failed to show a benefit for reduction of cardiovascular risk,2 and yet other studies have found a link between beta carotene levels in adipose tissue and cardiovascular risk.3

What all this suggests is that beta carotene is most beneficial when produced by our gut bacteria. Jens Nielsen, an author of the study, stated, “Our results indicate that long-term exposure to carotenoids, through production by the bacteria in the digestive system has important health benefits. These results should make it possible to develop new probiotics. We think that the bacterial species in the probiotics would establish themselves as a permanent culture in the gut and have a long-term effect.”

The researchers also found increases in bacteria of the genus Collinsella in stroke patients, while Roseburia and Eubacterium were increased in healthy subjects. Further, genes associated with inflammatory processes were found to be enriched in the stroke patients, while genes associated with anti-inflammatory processes were enriched in healthy subjects, “suggesting that the metagenome may contribute to the development of symptomatic atherosclerosis by acting as a regulatory of host inflammatory pathways,” stated the study. “Even though our study cannot provide evidence for direct causal effects, these findings indicate that the gut metagenome may have a role in the development of symptomatic atherosclerosis.”

This is exciting research, but more is needed to work out the details. Another author of the study, Fredrik Backhed, predicted, “By examining the patient’s bacterial microbiota, we should also be able to develop risk prognoses for cardiovascular disease. It should be possible to provide completely new disease-prevention options.”

That’s not all for the gut connection. In a study published in the journal Diabetes in 2007, it was shown that a high-fat, high-sugar diet decreases the amount of bifidobacteria in the gut and promotes intestinal uptake of bacterial cell wall antigens such as lipopolysaccharides (LPS) and peptidoglycans. These bacterial products create major upregulation (increase) of the inflammatory response in the blood, which leads to endothelial dysfunction and eventually to atheroscleroisis, or the buildup of plaque in the arteries. On the other hand, a diet that was 80–90 percent plant based (vegetables, seeds/nuts, soaked legumes, sprouted whole grains, and fruit) attracts and helps to maintain the optimum microbiome including many species of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.

These are exciting times for the gut, indeed. To reiterate, optimal digestive function—and gut microbial balance—is the foundation upon which total body health is built.

 

References

  1. F.H. Karlsson, et al., “Symptomatic atherosclerosis is associated with an altered gut metagenome.” Nat Commun. 2012 Dec 4;3:1245.
  2. S.T. Mayne, “Beta-carotene, carotenoids, and disease prevention in humans.” FASEB J. 1996 May;10(7):690-701.
  3. A.F. Kardinaal, et al., “Antioxidants in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction: the EURAMIC Study.” Lancet. 1993 Dec 4;342(8884):1379-84.
  4. P.D. Cani, et al., “Metabolic endotoxemia initiates obesity and insulin resistance.” Diabetes. 2007 Jul;56(7):1761-72.

Altered Gut Microbiome Linked to Heart Disease and Stroke

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 12/26/2012


The gut connection to overall health, a connection Brenda and I have been exploring and educating about for many years, is growing stronger every day. Week after week, researchers around the world are linking digestive function—usually gut bacterial balance—to a range of health conditions in many different areas of the body. Particularly interesting have been the links between heart health and gut health. Brenda has blogged on a couple of these connections along the way, and many more are mentioned in our last two books, The Road to Perfect Health, and Heart of Perfect Health.

The connection between the gut microbiome and human health is currently being explored as part of the Human Microbiome Project, which I blogged about not long ago. This project has inspired a new wave of research into the effects of the gut microbiome and is delivering interesting findings. In a new study from Sweden published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers compared the gut microbiome of stroke patients to that of healthy subjects, and found some major differences.1

One interesting difference they found was that genes in bacteria required for the production of carotenoids—a group of antioxidants that includes beta carotene—were more frequently found in healthy subjects, who also had higher levels of beta carotene in the blood, when compared to stroke patients. This is interesting in light of the fact that some studies looking at the effects of beta carotene supplementation for heart health have failed to show a benefit for reduction of cardiovascular risk,2 and yet other studies have found a link between beta carotene levels in adipose tissue and cardiovascular risk.3

What all this suggests is that beta carotene is most beneficial when produced by our gut bacteria. Jens Nielsen, an author of the study, stated, “Our results indicate that long-term exposure to carotenoids, through production by the bacteria in the digestive system has important health benefits. These results should make it possible to develop new probiotics. We think that the bacterial species in the probiotics would establish themselves as a permanent culture in the gut and have a long-term effect.”

The researchers also found increases in bacteria of the genus Collinsella in stroke patients, while Roseburia and Eubacterium were increased in healthy subjects. Further, genes associated with inflammatory processes were found to be enriched in the stroke patients, while genes associated with anti-inflammatory processes were enriched in healthy subjects, “suggesting that the metagenome may contribute to the development of symptomatic atherosclerosis by acting as a regulatory of host inflammatory pathways,” stated the study. “Even though our study cannot provide evidence for direct causal effects, these findings indicate that the gut metagenome may have a role in the development of symptomatic atherosclerosis.”

This is exciting research, but more is needed to work out the details. Another author of the study, Fredrik Backhed, predicted, “By examining the patient’s bacterial microbiota, we should also be able to develop risk prognoses for cardiovascular disease. It should be possible to provide completely new disease-prevention options.”

That’s not all for the gut connection. In a study published in the journal Diabetes in 2007, it was shown that a high-fat, high-sugar diet decreases the amount of bifidobacteria in the gut and promotes intestinal uptake of bacterial cell wall antigens such as lipopolysaccharides (LPS) and peptidoglycans. These bacterial products create major upregulation (increase) of the inflammatory response in the blood, which leads to endothelial dysfunction and eventually to atheroscleroisis, or the buildup of plaque in the arteries. On the other hand, a diet that was 80–90 percent plant based (vegetables, seeds/nuts, soaked legumes, sprouted whole grains, and fruit) attracts and helps to maintain the optimum microbiome including many species of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.

These are exciting times for the gut, indeed. To reiterate, optimal digestive function—and gut microbial balance—is the foundation upon which total body health is built.

 

References

  1. F.H. Karlsson, et al., “Symptomatic atherosclerosis is associated with an altered gut metagenome.” Nat Commun. 2012 Dec 4;3:1245.
  2. S.T. Mayne, “Beta-carotene, carotenoids, and disease prevention in humans.” FASEB J. 1996 May;10(7):690-701.
  3. A.F. Kardinaal, et al., “Antioxidants in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction: the EURAMIC Study.” Lancet. 1993 Dec 4;342(8884):1379-84.
  4. P.D. Cani, et al., “Metabolic endotoxemia initiates obesity and insulin resistance.” Diabetes. 2007 Jul;56(7):1761-72.

Get Your Antioxidants from Fruits and Veggies

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/24/2012


As often as I can, I try to emphasize that diet is 80 percent of the battle when you are dealing with health issues. In fact, diet is 80 percent of the battle always. Whether you are healthy, on the road to health, or seemingly so far from health you can’t even fathom it—diet is 80 percent of the battle. If you do not address poor dietary habits, you simply won’t achieve optimal health.

One of the most important parts of diet that just about all of us need to address is fruit and vegetable consumption—I emphasize the vegetable part (and by vegetables, I don’t mean potatoes, corn, and other starches). Only 14 percent of American adults and 9.5 percent of adolescents eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day (and this includes potatoes, corn, and other starches, unfortunately). Yet some experts recommend up to 9 servings daily to achieve optimal health and prevent disease.

A recent study published in The American Journal of Medicine analyzed the antioxidant capacity over ten years of the diets of over 32,000 women aged 49 to 83. The women who consumed a diet with the highest antioxidant capacity—the equivalent of 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily—had a 20 percent lower risk of heart attack when compared to the women eating the lowest antioxidant capacity diet—only 2.4 servings daily.

How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you eat daily? My guess is that you could use a few extra servings each day. Most of us could. Find ways to work these nutrient-dense, high-fiber foods into your diet. Snack on veggies. Be sure to eat vegetables with each meal. Add low-sugar fruits, such as berries, to your breakfast and snacks. It begins at the grocery store (or farmers’ market!) and continues as you plan your days and weeks. Make it your goal to add more fruits and vegetables into your life. Your health will thank you.

Obese Children and Teens Have Higher Levels of BPA

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/21/2012


I blog often about the chemical bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, because it is a harmful toxin found just about everywhere. Sure, the FDA has succeeded in removing it from baby bottles and sippy cups, but what about the effects of this toxin on older children and even adults? A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association provides some eye-opening information.

The study is the first to use data from a large, nationally representative sample. That means the results of the study represent what would be found across the country—it applies to all of us. The researchers found that in children aged 6 to 19 years, 22.3 percent of those with the highest levels of BPA in their urine were obese compared to only 10.3 percent of those with the lowest levels. Essentially, high levels of BPA were associated with an almost doubled obesity rate.

“Our findings further demonstrate the need for a broader paradigm in the way we think about the obesity epidemic. Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity certainly contribute to increased fat mass, but the story clearly doesn’t end there,” explained lead researcher Leonardo Trasande.

The link between higher BPA levels and obesity was also previously found in adults. In fact, the researchers continued, “In the U.S. population, exposure to [BPA] is nearly ubiquitous, with 92.6 percent of persons 6 years or older identified in the 2003–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) as having detectable BPA levels in their urine.”

Although this study only proves an association, and does not prove BPA causes obesity, BPA has already been defined as an obesogen—that is, a chemical that alters metabolism and predisposes people to gain weight. The current obesity epidemic—in children and adults—warrants a closer look at all the factors involved. Diet plays a big role, but so does environmental toxin exposure.

Krill Oil – Are We Being Misled?

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/19/2012


The other day I was so pleased to see the message that I share on Heart of Perfect Health, my new PBS special, discussed from a different angle on the Dr. Oz Show.  The more this heart healthy message is broadcast, the healthier Americans will be!

Dr. Sinatra, the cardiologist who wrote the book The Great Cholesterol Myth stated clearly that cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease, and that sugar is the true enemy. He explained that the traditional cholesterol numbers are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of recognizing the silent inflammation beneath. As I explain even more clearly in my book, Heart of Perfect Health, cholesterol particle size gives true insight into your cardiac risk factors. I applaud Dr. Oz, trained by our traditional medical community, for his openness and acceptance of this groundbreaking information.

If you’ve already seen my show, I hope you’ll remember this life changing point—it is critical for your health to determine the number of teaspoons of sugar that you consume daily. If it’s over 10 teaspoons and you have any positive risk factors, consider modifying your sugar intake for your heart health.

In my PBS special you saw how extremely deceptive labels are with regard to amounts of sugar, and learned that the true determination of total intake of sugar is actually found by looking at the total carbohydrates, which turn to sugar once in your body. I showed you an easy way to figure how many teaspoons of sugar you are really consuming each day by using the numbers on those confusing labels.

Maybe I’m just noticing misleading information even more recently, but I have noticed that krill oil as a source of omega-3 is growing in popularity these days. In fact, some of these supplements are even promoted for the reduction of heart disease. But if you look a little closer—at the labels—you will find that krill oil supplements provide a very small amount of the beneficial omega-3s. Even so-called extra-strength krill supplements only provide 115 mg of omega-3, recommended in one soft gel daily.

Although certainly a little omega-3 oil is better than none at all, medical research clearly shows that, to enjoy the heart protective and triglyceride lowering benefits of omega-3s, you require 1000–3000 mg omega-3 daily.

Diving deeper, krill oil is promoted as more effectively absorbing into the body’s cells than fish oil. Well, one recent study found that the omega-3 EPA and DHA from krill oil and fish oil were absorbed similarly, even when the krill oil dosage was 63% lower. What you might not hear about this study, however, was that participants had to take 6 krill oil soft gels vs just 3 softgels of fish oil. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take half as many softgels and still get similar absorption rates!

My only reason for coming forth at this point is that I believe Dr. Oz, Dr. Sinatra, many medical researchers (and my own team) have worked far too diligently toward our goal of sharing health evidence with our fellow Americans to simply ignore such misleading information.

Thanks for reading. And remember: Eat more fat—the good omega-3s— up to 3,000 mg daily! Your heart will be glad you did, and so will your family!

Omega-3s for Memory in Young People

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/17/2012


A recent study published in the Public Library of Sciences journal sought to determine the effect of omega-3s on memory function. Healthy young subjects were supplemented with 2 grams of omega-3 EPA + DHA daily (930 mg EPA + 750 DHA) for six months.

Over six months levels of the omega-3s in red blood cell membranes (the best measure of tissue levels—where the omega-3s work) were increased in association with improvement in working memory. The researchers also tried to determine whether omega-3 intake affected dopamine storage in the striatum of the brain, as measured by PET scans (positron-emission transmission scans). They did not find an effect, however, suggesting that dopamine storage in the striatum is not the mechanism by which omega-3s affect working memory.  

The interesting take away from this study is that young healthy people—who already have relatively good memory—were able to improve their working memory by taking omega-3s. The researchers noted, “Before seeing this data, I would have said it was impossible to move young healthy individuals above their cognitive best. We found that members of this population can enhance their working memory performance even further, despite their already being at the top of their cognitive game.” 

“So many of the previous studies have been done with the elderly or people with medical conditions, leaving this unique population of young adults unaddressed,” stated Matthew Muldoon, an investigator of the study, “Can we help the brain achieve its full potential by adapting our healthy behaviors in our young adult life? We found that we absolutely can.”

More studies will be needed to determine just how these beneficial fats work in the brain to improve memory. In the meantime, keep taking your omega-3s!

Antibiotic Resistance—Down to the Last Straw

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/14/2012


Antibiotic resistance, which I blog about often, is one of the major problems facing the medical world today. Earlier this year, you may have heard about a pathogenic bacteria that struck at University of Virginia Medical Center, a National Institutes of Health hospital, killing seven people. This bacteria was found to be resistant to carbapenem antibiotics—the last antibiotic left to fight the bacteria. That’s not good news.

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriacea (CRE) is a family of bacteria resistant to carbapenems. A recent USA TODAY article stated that there have been thousands of CRE cases throughout the country in recent years. “They show up as everything from pneumonia to intestinal and urinary tract infections,” noted the report. Yet they have received little or no attention.

The death rate from a CRE infection is up to 40%, far exceeding MRSA or C. difficile infections. While the infection has only been found to occur in hospital and nursing home settings so far, experts are concerned that it could extend out into the community where it would be more difficult to control.

In medical centers in which CRE infections have emerged, measures are being taken to prevent the spread of the infection, and to determine how and from where the infection spreads. Unfortunately, new antibiotics are not on the horizon because they tend to lose their potency before the antibiotic earns a profit. That is, the pathogenic bacteria are developing resistance faster than we are developing medications against them. That’s more bad news.

When it comes to antibiotic resistance, it’s vital that we do not take unnecessary antibiotics. Antibiotic overuse is one of the main reasons for antibiotic resistance. Further, we must get antibiotics out of our foods! Many animals are given antibiotics preventatively to ward off illness and to plump up. These practices need to stop. Try to avoid antibiotic-treated foods, such as poultry or eggs. This is a good place to start. Do what you can and help spread the word.

Omega-3 Fish Oil Links Brain Health to Heart Health

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 12/12/2012


Two of the most well-known beneficial effects of omega-3 fish oils are the improvements of cardiovascular and cognitive (heart and brain) health. These two benefits are usually investigated separately in studies, but a recent study published in the Nutrition Journal1 evaluated both together. They investigated the effects of fish oil supplementation on cognitive performance in healthy individuals, and related that outcome to cardio-metabolic risk factors. By doing so, they were able to make connections between heart health and cognitive health via the anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil.

Forty subjects were divided into two groups: the first received fish oil daily (3000 mg omega-3 including 1500 mg EPA + 1050 mg DHA) for five weeks followed by five weeks of placebo, and the second group received five weeks of placebo followed by five weeks of fish oil. (So each person acted as his own placebo, which helps reduce potential confounding factors.) The researchers found that daily fish oil supplementation significantly improved working memory, and there was a trend towards improvement in the ability to sustain attention. In addition, those subjects taking fish oil were also found to have decreased systolic blood pressure and triglycerides, both risk factors for the development of heart disease.

Stated the researchers, “The relation between higher levels of cardio-metabolic risk markers and inferior cognitive performance in healthy subjects, as observed in the present study, highlights the potential of a preventive dietary approach in the combat of both metabolic disorders and associated cognitive decline.”

They also found a reduction of inflammation (as measured by TNF-alpha concentrations) related to improved cognitive performance. They state, “The relationship between inflammation and cognitive performance indicate that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may be beneficial to cognitive functions due to a general anti-inflammatory effect, also involving effects on neuro-inflammation. Low grade chronic inflammation is increasingly also recognized as an important factor in the development of metabolic disorders such as diabetes type 2 and cardiovascular disease.”

That’s the premise underlying our latest book and PBS show, Heart of Perfect Health (now airing nationally)—silent inflammation is the common underlying factor that contributes to chronic disease, including heart health. And you know what? The gut is the main source of this silent inflammation. Heal your gut, heal your body.

The researchers made a smart choice when they decided to use a placebo that did not include another oil, like olive oil. Olive oil is a common placebo for fish oil, but since olive oil itself has some beneficial effects, including reduced inflammation, a positive benefit may be masked by the use of this oil. Instead, the researchers used a water-filled tablet to eliminate possible confounding factors. However, they did make one mistake—they measured plasma levels of omega-3 fatty acids instead of red blood cell membrane levels. Red blood cell membrane levels of omega-3 fats (also called the Omega-3 Index2) is the best marker of long-term omega-3 fatty acid intake and reflects tissue levels of omega-3s, which is where these fats are most utilized. They even mention, “An additional potential study limitation may be that no data is available concerning subjects’ blood- and/or red blood cell membrane phospholipid concentrations of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” I have mentioned this as a potential limitation of the recent study that led to claims that fish oil supplementation does not lower heart disease risk.

Overall, it’s important to consider the totality of the evidence. And overwhelmingly, omega-3 fish oil supplementation has been associated with a wide array of benefits. This study is moving us one step closer towards understanding how the underlying disease process, in many different chronic illnesses, is the same. Rather than separating one disease from the other, by teasing out the underlying common causes, we have much greater potential to positively impact health.

 

References

  1. A. Nilsson, et al., “Effects of supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on cognitive performance and cardiometabolic risk markers in healthy 51 to 72 years old subjects: a randomized controlled cross-over study.” Nutr J. 2012 Nov 22;11(1):99.
  2. W.S. Harris, “The omega-3 index as a risk factor for coronary heart disease.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jun;87(6):1997S-2002S.