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Juvenon Health Journal volume 7 number 2 february 2008

Omega-3s: On the Menu for Better Cardiovascular Health

By Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D.

Which supplement, if any, should we take on a daily basis to maximize our health? A confusing question, perhaps largely due to what we see in the news media. One week a particular nutrient is good for our health. Later, we come across another article preaching the potential dangers associated with taking the same nutrient.

There is a nutrient, however, that receives virtually all positive health reports, the omega-3 fatty acids, commonly present in cold water fish (sardines, salmon etc.). (For more on the omega-3s, see Feeling Pain? Try DHA, EPA and Aspirin,” August 2006Juvenon Health Journal.) Some of the positive health effects of omega-3 fatty acids reported in the scientific literature are listed below.

This month’s Journal describes the results of a human study, demonstrating the positive effects Omega-3 has on cardiovascular health, especially when taken with a meal.

Omega-3s Potential Pluses

  • diminished depression, Alzheimer’s and cancer
  • reduced inflammation
  • weight reduction and decrease in number and size of fat cells
  • improved heart and vascular health
  • improved cellular energy via increased number of cellular mitochondria

Omega-3s vs. Omega-6s
Many of the diseases associated with western civilization are believed to be, at least in part, the result of a diet deficient in the omega-3 fatty acids, and too high in another class of fatty acids, omega-6s. The omega-6s are highly concentrated in vegetable oils and are present in so many of our carbohydrate-based foods, as well as cooking oil.Many of the diseases associated with western civilization are believed to be, at least in part, the result of a diet deficient in the omega-3 fatty acids.(Substituting cold pressed extra virgin olive oil for vegetable oils is a healthy alternative.).

Why are we so tortured?  Is something that tastes so good, like crispy fat on a steak, really not good for our health? Surprisingly, consuming a high-fat meal occasionally may be perfectly healthy, especially if your diet is replete with the omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent or minimize fat-induced damage to your health.

High Fat, Higher Blood Pressure
Experimental data from recent studies indicates that regular consumption of a diet high in fat, especially saturated fat (that solid white stuff on a steak), impairs the health of the sensitive cells (endothelial) lining the walls of our blood vessels (arteries and arterioles). The impaired artery doesn’t respond properly to pressure exerted on it by the flow of blood pumped by the heart. This, in turn, results in arterial stiffness and loss of vessel elasticity. As the condition progresses, blood pressure rises.

Healthier Vessels
A recent study (this month’s “Research Update”) identified another positive health effect from taking the omega-3 fatty acid, EPA in supplement form. The research was carried out on 17 healthy men at Kings College London.

salmon or steak + omega-3s

The men consumed a high-fat meal, one group with the omega-3 fatty acid, EPA (5 grams), the other group without it. A second high-fat meal followed four hours later, but without EPA. Three and six hours after consuming the first meal, the stiffness of the participants’ arteries was measured using a digital volume pulse (DVP) device.

The measurements were recorded as stiffness index (DVP-SI). The results were impressive, clearly demonstrating a significant improvement in the stiffness index in those who consumed the high-fat meal containing the EPA, as compared to the control high-fat meal without it.

Omega-3s and You
These results, as well as those from another human study (published September 2007) by a different group of investigators, strongly support a role for the omega-3 fatty acids in improving elasticity of blood vessels and cardiovascular health in general. Considering the additional potential benefits (see table above) from consuming sufficient quantities of the omega-3s, making an effort to include this nutrient in your diet seems like a healthy choice.       

Omega-3s Sources
Flaxseed and other plants contain the omega-3s, but in a form that requires additional cellular processing to convert them to the active forms the body can use. Unfortunately, the conversion is very inefficient. Only a small percentage of the precursor omega-3s in the flaxseed becomes the active, DHA/EPA forms.

The omega-3s can also be obtained from fish. In fact, many health professionals recommend one or two meals with fish per week (perhaps less during pregnancy). Considering the additional potential benefits from consuming sufficient quantities of the omega-3s, making an effort to include this nutrient in your diet seems like a healthy choice.But there is the issue of pollution with heavy metals, such as mercury, as well as toxic chemicals present in pesticides. All of which have been found in some fish.

Another safer, more effective source of the omega-3s is fish oil capsules. For the most part, the capsules contain molecularly distilled fish oil, eliminating the bulk of the toxic contaminants.

How much? 
Although a precise amount has yet to be established, most experts in the field believe a healthy dosage is in the range of one to two grams per day. Labels frequently indicate 1000 milligrams fish oil per capsule, but the omega-3s represent only one-third of the total. So, if each capsule contains about 300 mg of the two important omega-3s, DHA/EPA, the recommended dosage would be three to four capsules of fish oil per day.

To be on the safe side it is always a good idea to consult with your health professional about dosage and whether taking this nutrient in supplement form will benefit your health.

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Research Update

Researchers from King’s College London recently examined the effects an omega-3 fatty acid, EPA, had on vascular health after a high-fat meal. They hypothesized that the omega-3 would attenuate arterial stiffness. Their results and conclusions were published in the February 2008 Journal of Nutrition.

The research was motivated by the results of previous work that demonstrated a significant impairment of blood vessel health after a meal. The investigators also noted that earlier studies had shown that increased intake of oily fish or supplementation with mixed fatty acids or fish oils can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and influence vascular function.

The Kings College researchers designed an experiment, involving 17 healthy men. The subjects were asked to consume a high-fat meal. Some of the meals also contained five grams of EPA, the experimental. The other meals, the placebo group, contained the same diet without the omega-3 fat.

After a three-hour and six-hour period, blood pressure and arterial function were measured with a digital volume pulse device that produced an arterial stiffness index. Compared to the placebo group, subjects who consumed the meal containing the EPA showed a significant decrease in vascular stiffness (improved vessel elasticity). 

The mechanism(s) involved in the EPA-promoted increase in vessel elasticity is still to be determined. However, the investigators suggest a number of potential biochemical pathways that may be activated by EPA to elicit this vascular response.

Click here to read the full abstract.
“A High-Fat Meal Enriched with Eicosapentaenoic Acid Reduces Postprandial Arterial Stiffness Measured by Digital Volume Pulse Analysis in Healthy Men”
J. Nutr. 138:287-291, February 2008

This Research Update column highlights articles related to recent scientific inquiry into the process of human aging. It is not intended to promote any specific ingredient, regimen, or use and should not be construed as evidence of the safety, effectiveness, or intended uses of the Juvenon product. The Juvenon label should be consulted for intended uses and appropriate directions for use of the product.

Ask Ben
Dr. Treadwell answers your questions about Juvenon™ Cellular Health Supplement

QUESTION:  I have heard the acetyl L-carnitine in Juvenon is a compound of which the body can only absorb 25%. Can you address how you may have formulated your product with this in mind? I already take alpha lipoic acidwith good results (My hair is growing in dark!), so I am interested in the boost that the acetyl L-carnitine gives to the effect. — M.

ANSWER: The amount of acetyl-L-carnitine taken up into the blood stream is variable and is usually between 20-50%. Maximum absorption is realized if taken without food.

Acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid are co-factors involved in energy production in the mitochondria. Experiments have demonstrated that the compounds, when taken together, act synergistically to improve cellular health and energy production. In other words, taking either one alone does have some positive effect, but taking them together produces a much larger (more than additive) effect on cellular health and energy production.

Many age-related issues are associated with a decrease in the activity of the mitochondria (which virtually all cells contain). This is primarily due to the fact that maintaining cellular health takes significant energy and, as we age, the structure and function of the mitochondria – the cellular powerhouses – deteriorates. Acetyl-L carnitine and lipoic acid function to improve mitochondrial structure and function, and help attenuate this age-associated deterioration program, resetting the mitochondria to a more youthful, high energy-producing state.


Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D., is a former Harvard Medical School associate professor and member of Juvenon’s Scientific Advisory Board.

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