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Leafy Greens for Brain Health

By Ann C Wooledge
on December 08, 2015

Bring on the Green, Leafy Vegetables

Spinach, kale, chard and other green leafy vegetables of every type are great for the brain. In one study, Dr. Martha Clare Morris found that people who ate 1-2 servings of green leafy vegetables per day were 11 years younger—cognitively speaking—than those who consumed none. And that's really not a LOT of green leafies! They are easy to incorporate into our diets and so many ways to do it. That's one of the reasons she included leafy greens as one of the ten essential foods in the MIND diet, with a recommendation of at least six servings per week. If you can't quite make it to six, even two servings a week showed some benefit! 

Here are four recipes to try this month if you'd like to incorporate leafy greens into your diet in new ways. Read more here

Now here is what NOT to do - I let my swiss chard sit out on the deck during an ice storm not long ago. I think I can still maybe saute it? Or try it in this recipe. I love quiche, I love cheddar cheese and I love chard - so this looks like a winner. 

 

Another good way could be to use it in a salad - this one looks really good too - swiss chard, cabbage and brussel sprouts salad!

Now sitting right beside the swiss chard is my patch of parsley that seems to grow regardless of heat or cold this year. I'm going to plant some kale in this area this week too because I've seen it last through even the harshest Nebraska winters. 

 

Now I'm not sure what to do with this much parsley though. Freeze it, dry it? Any suggestions?

Do you have some good ways to incorporate greens into your diet? Please share!

Thanks for listening!

ann c wooledge, RN, CCAP, aromatherapist, herbalist, organic and natural cosmetic formulator

Ann's mission statement is to provide health and wellness information to you and your family that you may not find in your every-day newspapers or Prevention magazines. Her college studies, certifications and passionate self-study have provided her with a huge spectrum of understanding of the intricate issues and debates concerning health, nutrition and skin care. Ann was a Critical Care Registered Nurse, is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has been studying nutrition, aromatherapy, skin care health and medicinal herbalism for at least 13 years. Not so surprisingly, all of these interact for health and wellness at a level we all want to achieve. She is an ardent pursuer of verified research and information and spends huge amounts of time searching for information that is relevant and evidence based. We sincerely hope you benefit from her efforts.

See our disclaimer statements here.

 

Yoga or Tai Chi to relieve heart problems!

By Ann C Wooledge
on December 12, 2013
1 comment

 

 

Atrial fibrillation - afib for short, an irregular heart beat. A problem we saw often when I worked in the Critical Care Unit. It wasn't one of those issues that caused your adrenaline to spike when you saw it on your patient's EKG, but it was nonetheless concerning and required a call to their doctor and medical - pharmaceutical - intervention. Usually chronic administration of a medication -or two. Afib can cause symptoms that reduce a person's quality of life and it can sometimes progress to something more acute.

Surprisingly for the doctors I think, but not really so surprising to me and possibly you, is a recent article in MedPageToday.com. They found evidence (enough to convince them to review the research and write about it) that yoga actually improves the burden on the heart caused by afib, and also improved heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and depression! Now think about it - how many different medications would one have to take to do all of that!? Exactly! Not to mention all of the side effects from EACH of those medications. It took only three months of yoga training to improve "quality of life parameters, including physical functioning, general health, vitality, social function and mental health" - and this is not the first study to evaluate the effects of yoga for improvement in cardiac problems. Not to be taken lightly, atrial fibrillation can still cause disabling and bothersome symptoms that adversely affect a patient’s quality of life. These doctors agreed that: "One way to help manage the disease and improve quality of life may be to add adjunctive complementary and alternative therapies, such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, therapeutic hypnosis, or tai chi into routine care." That in and of itself is pretty amazing!

If you or a family member, friend or co-worker suffer from ANY cardiac disease, please show them this article for more information including the impressive benefits of practicing Tai Chi. Do I do either of these? Well, actually I don't. I've often considered it, but after reading this and the research studies they provided - and many other articles I've read confirming the benefits, I am going to check out yoga. Well, maybe an at-home video first. At one time I actually thought yoga was a sort of religion and therefore not something a good conservative Christian girl would do. I was so totally wrong about that and I wish I had considered this sooner. And - you don't have to be fit, slender and young as depicted in almost every picture I searched to find something to post here! Do you practice yoga or tai chi? I'd love to know what you think. I'm having coffee with a couple of very dear friends of mine tomorrow morning - both of their husbands have undergone cardiac catheterizations and are on medications. I am copying the article and will take a couple copies with me tomorrow. Maybe we can all start a yoga or tai chi class together - that would be a good way to start the new year!

Below are direct quotes from the article in MedPageToday.com's article. Take a few minutes to read it in more detail here.

  • The regular practice of yoga improves symptoms, arrhythmia burden, heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and depression scores, and several domains of quality of life among patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.
  • Twelve weeks of tai chi training can significantly improve heart failure-related quality of life and exercise tolerance, as well as reduce blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein.

Tell me this isn't so much better than taking a lot of pills!! Seriously, I'm just very excited that this totally allopathic website has chosen to publish this article and giving credence to what most of you probably already knew. Show it to your doctor and as with any new exercise program start out slow and do keep in touch with your physician. Hopefully, you can regulate those medications downward and to the point of not taking them at all.

Thanks for listening!

 

Ann

Ann's mission statement truly is to provide health and wellness information to you and your family that you may not find in your every-day newspapers or Prevention magazines. Her college studies, certifications and passionate self-study have provided her with a huge spectrum of understanding of the intricate issues and debates concerning health and nutrition. Ann is a Critical Care Registered Nurse, a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has been studying nutrition, aromatherapy, skin care health and medicinal herbalism for at least 13 years. Not so surprisingly, all of these interact for health and wellness at a level we all want to achieve. She is an ardent pursuer of verified research and information and spends huge amounts of time searching for information that is relevant and evidence based. We sincerely hope you benefit from her efforts.

References provided by MedPageToday.com:

  1. Lakkireddy D, Atkins D, Pillarisetti J, et al. Effect of yoga on arrhythmia burden, anxiety, depression, and quality of life in paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: The YOGA My Heart Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013 Jan 25. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Schneider RH, Grim CE, Rainforth MV, et al. Stress reduction in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: randomized, controlled trial of transcendental meditation and health education in blacks. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2012;5:750-758.
  3. Lombardi F, Belletti S, Battezzati PM, et al. Acupuncture for paroxysmal and persistent atrial fibrillation: an effective non-pharmacological tool? World J Cardiol. 2012;4:60-65.
  4. Novoa R, Hammonds T. Clinical hypnosis for reduction of atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Cleve Clin J Med. 2008;75(suppl 2):S44-S47.
  5. Yeh GY, Wood MJ, Lorell BH, et al. Effects of tai chi mind-body movement therapy on functional status and exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Med. 2004;117:541-548.
  6. Caminiti G, Volterrani M, Marazzi G, et al. Tai chi enhances the effects of endurance training in the rehabilitation of elderly patients with chronic heart failure. Rehabil Res Pract. 2011;2011:761958.

 

 

 

Blissful Brain Essential Oil Blend

By Ann C Wooledge
on May 05, 2013
2 comments

Blissful Brain Aromatherapy Blend: 

 

Finding a name for this blend was really difficult for me - I'm not sure why. I think because I felt inadequate at being able to describe the real emotional affect this blend has on me. I'm still not "happy" with the name and any suggestions would be appreciated. I do feel blissful and happy when I diffuse or use this blend, but it's really more than that. Research has shown that the oils in this blend do different things to the brain and, of course, everyone is unique and will experience different emotions. Basic Aromatherapy 101 (and abundant research)  teaches us that all essential oils when inhaled quickly enter into the limbic system of the brain which is why they are such powerful modulators of mood. To make this blend, simply add it to about 2 ounces of a vegetable or massage oil (organic), your favorite unscented cream or unscented bath salts:


Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) – 5 drops
Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) – 1 drop
Jasmine sambac (Jasminum sambac) – 1 to 2 drops
Rose (Rosa damascena) – 2 drops
Mandarin (Citrus ritculata) – 2 drops

Sweet orange is well known for it's ability to make people feel happy and there are institutions and organizations - more and more now in the USA - who diffuse it into the air to bestow those feelings onto their customers and/or employees. We recommend organic citrus oils due to the potential build up of toxic pesticides in citrus peels.


Ylang-ylang is widely known and accepted in the aromatherapy literature as an aphrodisiac, but it also has some calming properties to it, as does Mandarin due to their ester (chemical constituent) content. These "constituents" in essential oils are natural according to our definition of natural - nothing added to nature.


Jasmine sambac absolute is a well-known anti-depressant with sedative type properties and also well known to be an aphrodisiac. Jasmine must be solvent extracted as an absolute and is quite expensive so be very careful where you purchase this oil, as adulteration is unfortunately common. Yes, we do use it in our blends, but no, we don't carry it for resale yet- still searching for a good reliable source, and frankly the financial resources to be able to purchase a substantial amount of this precious oil. The literature also attributes it with the power to diminish negative emotions such as anger. Dr. Amen calls them ANT’s – Automatic Negative Thoughts and they are particularly bad for you and your brain. Jasmine is quite a powerful scent and will overpower the blend if you add too much. We think 1 to 2 drops in this blend will round out the fragrance and the beneficial properties. I absolutely love Jasmine and swoon whenever I open a bottle of it – seriously. Thankfully, a little bit goes a long way.

Rose absolute (solvent extracted) or Rose otto (steam distilled), also very expensive and precious, can have up to 50% citronellol – per Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt,which accounts for its “tonifying” affects.  He states, “…the physical and emotional impact of a drop of rose at the right moment can extend far beyond those effects (tonifying effects). This precious oil is one of my most favorites and has the reputation of being a very strong antidepressant. I would just add that if I had the financial resources, I would spend them on vats of rose essential oil. I have found this oil to have the ability to lift me from deep emotional pain - just a small scent of it left on a very small glass vial. I don't sell this oil, so you can be assured this is just true feedback.

Mandarin contains an interesting chemical constituent called N-methylanthranilate. This is a natural constituent as all unadulterated essential oils are natural in the truest sense of the word  – nothing added. What’s interesting about this constituent is that it is not present in Tangerine oil – so don’t substitute the nice tangy fragrance of Tangerine for Mandarin. Again, according to Dr. Schnaubelt, this constituent called an “ester” has “pronounced relaxing qualities”. This is also a very good oil for children, which is why we include it in our Sleepy Baby Blend

Let us know if you make this blend. You can, of course, tweak it to your own personal satisfaction and we'd love to hear about that - how you made it, how you used it and if you did, indeed, feel blissful after using it. We recommend using it in a diffuser such as our ultrasonic diffuser, or simply dropping a few drops on a kleenex, or as we mentioned previously - adding it to your unscented bath salts, unscented cream or massage oil.

Thanks for listening!

 

 

Find out more about me and Wingsets by clicking Our Story.

Ann has an interesting and varied background in both allopathic and natural health care. She was a Critical Care Registered Nurse for about 11 years. After working in the corporate world for many years, she returned to college to obtain her nursing degree. At the beginning of her hospital career she worked a little over a year in the Operating Room, a couple years on the Orthopedic Floor and a couple years in Short Stay (outpatient surgery), finally deciding that Critical Care was the place she wanted to be until total burn out in combination with foot surgery sidelined her to her real passion - healing and helping people with natural personal care products, nutrition and aromatherapy.  Discovering the amazing health benefits of essential oils and natural/organic ingredients moved her into the realm of cosmetic/personal care products formulator. Having a passion for nutrition and natural health, she has also furthered her education in the area of medicinal herbal remedies, became a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has delved enthusiastically into the area of natural health & nutrition, raw food, vegan and vegetarianism. She is a research addict and loves to blog about a wide variety of things she is discovering and hopes her blogs will benefit you and your family. 

Incredibly Healthy Cinnamon Chai Coffee Substitute

By Ann C Wooledge
on April 30, 2013
2 comments

Incredibly Healthy Cinnamon Chai Coffee Substitute


 

In the past, I've used a chai tea recipe (see recipe here) basically the same as this, but I've found that sometimes even the little bit of caffeine in black or green tea is uncomfortable for me - I'm not sure why. I have found, however, that substituting organic roasted chicory root tastes very good and has healthy properties. Below I will give just a few short well-known benefits of these ingredients, but would urge you to explore them further for yourself because they are full of health-giving and disease-preventing properties.

1.   Whole cinnamon stick - from the bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum):

  • Therapeutic activity against oral candidiasis (1) 
  • Potentially beneficial against osteoporosis (2)
  • Improves fasting blood sugar in Type 2 diabetics or prediabetes (3)
  • Marked inhibitory effect against Aspergillus niger (4)
  • Neuroprotective properties (12)

2.  Green cardamon pods (Elettaria cardamomum):

  • Blood pressure lowering (5)
  • Antioxidant (5, 8)
  • Inhibits gastric lesions induced by aspirin and alcohol (6)
  • Anti-cancer and promotes healthy immune system (7)
  • Metal chelating activity (8)

3.  Whole clove buds  (Syzygium aromaticum)

  • Metal chelating activity (8)
  • Strong antioxidant (8)
  • Protection against oral and intestinal candidiasis (9)
  • Delays formation and reduces incidence of papillomas (10)
  • Anti-inflammatory properties may be neuroprotective (12)

4.  Whole black peppercorns (Piper nigrum)

  • Anti-cancer and promotes healthy immune system (7)
  • Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer activities (11)
  • Anti-inflammatory properties may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases (12)
  • Fights oral bacteria (13)

5.  Chicory Root Roasted (Cichorium intybus

  • Analgesic properties similar to ibuprofen (14)
  • Potential antidiabetic agent carrying both insulin sensitizing and insulin-secreting properties (15)
  • Hepatoprotective effect in liver disease (16)

RECIPE:

1 cinnamon stick
8 whole green cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
1 teaspoon dried ginger root (not powder) OR 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly slice
4 whole black peppercorns
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 inch of a vanilla bean
2 1/2 cups filtered water
1 Tbsp Roasted Chicory Root
2 Tablespoons unrefined sugar (I really like the turbinado, but usually use stevia)
1 1/2 cups milk (non-GMO soy, coconut or nut milk)

Place cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, peppercorns, vanilla bean or extract in a 1.5 to 2-quart saucepan. 

Add filtered water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, set aside, and let steep for 10 minutes.

Return pot to the heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add chicory root, cover and set aside to let steep for 3 to 5 minutes.

Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve, discarding solids. 

Return liquid to the pot and stir in sugar (or stevia*) and milk.

Heat over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until warmed to your liking. Pour into cups and serve. (Also good over ice.) I left the spices in the glass that I stored the tea in (refrigerated it) until I wanted my next cup. By leaving the spice mixture in the leftovers, it made it taste (I do like it sort of strong) even better each time I reheated it.


Serves 2-large mugs or 4-small mugs.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. It definitely is helpful during flu or cold season as a preventative drink, plus being warm and cozy. I find it helpful all year long for blood sugar balance and weight loss. I find myself turning more and more to this drink as opposed to my daily coffee. 

Thanks for listening - let me know if you try it!


1.  J M Quale, D Landman, M M Zaman, S Burney, S S Sathe. In vitro activity of Cinnamomum zeylanicum against azole resistant and sensitive Candida species and a pilot study of cinnamon for oral candidiasis. Am J Chin Med. 1996;24(2):103-9. PMID: 8874667

2.   Kentaro Tsuji-Naito. Aldehydic components of cinnamon bark extract suppresses RANKL-induced osteoclastogenesis through NFATc1 downregulation. Bioorg Med Chem. 2008 Oct 15;16(20):9176-83. Epub 2008 Sep 14. PMID: 18823786

3.  P Subash Babu, S Prabuseenivasan, S Ignacimuthu. Cinnamaldehyde--a potential antidiabetic agent. Phytomedicine. 2007 Jan;14(1):15-22. Epub 2006 Nov 30. PMID: 17140783

4.  V C Pawar, V S Thaker. In vitro efficacy of 75 essential oils against Aspergillus niger. Mycoses. 2006 Jul;49(4):316-23. PMID: 16784447

5.  S K Verma, Vartika Jain, S S Katewa. Blood pressure lowering, fibrinolysis enhancing and antioxidant activities of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum). Indian J Biochem Biophys. 2009 Dec;46(6):503-6. PMID: 20361714

6.   A Jamal, Kalim Javed, M Aslam, M A Jafri. Gastroprotective effect of cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum Maton. fruits in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Jan 16;103(2):149-53. Epub 2005 Nov 17. PMID: 16298093

7.  Amin F Majdalawieh, Ronald I Carr. In vitro investigation of the potential immunomodulatory and anti-cancer activities of black pepper (Piper nigrum) and cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum). J Med Food. 2010 Apr;13(2):371-81. PMID: 20210607

8.  Amit Singh Yadav, Deepak Bhatnagar. Free radical scavenging activity, metal chelation and antioxidant power of some of the Indian spices. Biofactors. 2007;31(3-4):219-27. PMID: 18997285

9.   Yuuki Taguchi, Hiroko Ishibashi, Toshio Takizawa, Shigeharu Inoue, Hideyo Yamaguchi, Shigeru Abe. Protection of oral or intestinal candidiasis in mice by oral or intragastric administration of herbal food, clove (Syzygium aromaticum). Nippon Ishinkin Gakkai Zasshi. 2005;46(1):27-33. PMID: 15711533

10.  Sarmistha Banerjee, Sukta Das. Anticarcinogenic effects of an aqueous infusion of cloves on skin carcinogenesis. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2005 Jul-Sep;6(3):304-8. PMID: 16235990

11.   Yunbao Liu, Vivek R Yadev, Bharat B Aggarwal, Muraleedharan G Nair. Inhibitory effects of black pepper (Piper nigrum) extracts and compounds on human tumor cell proliferation, cyclooxygenase enzymes, lipid peroxidation and nuclear transcription factor-kappa-B. Nat Prod Commun. 2010 Aug;5(8):1253-7. PMID: 20839630

12.   Ramaswamy Kannappan, Subash Chandra Gupta, Ji Hye Kim, Simone Reuter, Bharat Bhushan Aggarwal. Neuroprotection by spice-derived nutraceuticals: you are what you eat! Mol Neurobiol. 2011 Oct ;44(2):142-59. Epub 2011 Mar 1. PMID: 21360003

13.   Nazia Masood Ahmed Chaudhry, Perween Tariq. Bactericidal activity of black pepper, bay leaf, aniseed and coriander against oral isolates. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2006 Jul;19(3):214-8. PMID: 16935829

14.   A Wesołowska, A Nikiforuk, K Michalska, W Kisiel, E Chojnacka-Wójcik. Analgesic and sedative activities of lactucin and some lactucin-like guaianolides in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Sep 19;107(2):254-8. Epub 2006 Mar 17. PMID:16621374

15.  Didier Tousch, Anne-Dominique Lajoix, Eric Hosy, Jacqueline Azay-Milhau, Karine Ferrare, Céline Jahannault, Gérard Cros, Pierre Petit. Chicoric acid, a new compound able to enhance insulin release and glucose uptake. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2008 Dec 5;377(1):131-5. Epub 2008 Oct 1. PMID: 18834859

16.  H Fallah Huseini, S M Alavian, R Heshmat, M R Heydari, K Abolmaali. The efficacy of Liv-52 on liver cirrhotic patients: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled first approach. Phytomedicine. 2005 Sep;12(9):619-24. PMID: 16194047

Are those Omega 3's really worth it?

By Ann C Wooledge
on March 22, 2013

 

 

Omega 3's - are they worth those dollars? Are they really working?

I don't know about you, but we spend a good deal of money every month purchasing my omega-3 fatty acid capsules. I've read a lot about mercury and lead contamination and possible rancidity in the different capsules. So I was very excited and pleased to see that Consumer Lab has done a large analysis of all the potential benefits and whether or not they are real or just perceived. Are we just spending too much money on something that doesn't work? For that reason I wanted to share this information with you. I would, however, highly recommend that you purchase a very reasonably priced subscription from consumerlab.com because the extensive report they published covers far more than what I am able to cover in this blog. 

What are Omega 3's?:

EPA and DHA are two principal fatty acids found primarily in fatty fish, krill and calamari. You are probably very familiar with the term omega-3 fatty acids. DHA can also be obtained from other sources such as algae. The body can only manufacture limited amounts of EPA and DHA from food as well as alpha linolenic acid (ALA) from plant foods such as flaxseed and walnuts. Consumer lab.com recently did an extensive analysis of the research concerning the benefits, which are many, of supplementing or consuming omega-3 fatty acids. Below you will find a list of the proposed benefits as well as the research that supports these benefits or has shown a lack of substantial justification for taking the supplement. 

Heart attack and stroke: 

The FDA has approved the labeling of supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids to state that research shows "supportive but not conclusive evidence that consuming DHA and EPA may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease." There is also an approved pharmaceutical prescription of a high-dose highly concentrated EPA/DHA product derived from fish oil. Heart healthy benefits attributed to omega-3 fatty acids include:

1.  Reducing triglyceride levels
2.  Raising levels of the good cholesterol (HDL),
3.  Possibly thinning the blood
4.  Reducing homocystine levels
5.  And also reducing blood pressure. 

Conclusion:

After a review of 14 studies Consumers Lab found no significant difference in outcomes between those who did from those who didn't take fish oil supplements.(1) Prior research has suggested a benefit for individuals with a history of cardiac disease. Clinical trials since 2010 now cast doubt on the benefit for both healthy individuals or those with prior cardiovascular vascular disease. However it was also stated that these studies may have been too short or small to detect small or modest benefit.(2) An additional review of twenty studies published from 1989 to 2012 also concluded that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids was not associated with a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, cardiac death, sudden-death for all forms of death among people. It should be said that most of these participants in the studies were at increased cardiovascular risk and were probably taking cardiovascular medicatio.(3) However, one study looked specifically at cerebrovascular disease (strokes) and found benefit from fish oil supplementation as well as eating fish. Another analysis of thirty-eight studies found that eating two to four servings per week of fish resulted in a 6% lower risk of stroke compared to eating one or fewer servings per week.(4) It was believed that the decreased risk of stroke was seen with fatty fish types and not whitefish types and that the beneficial effects of eating fish could very well be due to a wide range of nutrients that are found in fish. So in conclusion, although it has been widely believed that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids was beneficial in reducing cardiovascular events it does seem to remain generally not substantiated following the review of these studies. However, eating fish at least twice a week may be beneficial as long as it is not fried or deep fried. 

Arthritis and other inflammatory diseases: 

It is known that increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish alters the body's production of prostaglandins and therefore reduces some forms of inflammation. Because of this fact, supplementation with EPA and DHA has been used for symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and does seem to work in the early stages of the disease. However it was believed that fish oil probably doesn't slow progression of the disease. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties there have been other diseases with inflammatory components that have been studied and in one large study it was shown that people with the highest consumption of DHA had a 77% reduction in the risk of developing ulcerative colitis. (5) 

Cancer: 

After looking at studies regarding the prevention of cancer of the prostate, colon/rectum, and breast, it appeared that current use but not past use of fish oil supplements was associated with a 32% reduction in the risk of breast cancer. The risk reduction was more effective for ductal carcinoma of the breast than lobular carcinoma. It was suggested that the anticancer effects may be due to the anti-inflammatory property of fish oil because chronic inflammation is associated with cancer risk and progression. It was noted, however, that researchers felt fish oil cannot be recommended for breast cancer prevention without further study. An additional study did find fish consumption to be associated with a large reduction in late stage or fatal prostate cancer.(6) 

Chemotherapy: 

It was found fish oil could be helpful to prevent weight loss during cancer chemotherapy. Although not all studies did show this benefit a recent study showed significant benefit.(7) 

Eye disease: 

And analysis of the use of supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids did show that those with the highest intake of EPA and DHA were 30% less likely to develop diseases of the retina. Decreased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration was also shown in a study of over 30,000 female health professionals. Those who ate fish at least once a week had a 42% reduction in developing AMD compared to those eating less than one serving per month. It appeared that the greatest benefit was with consumption of canned tuna or other dark meat fish such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines.(7) 

Psychiatric and mental disorders: 

Omega-3 fatty acids appear to help mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia although there have only been a limited number of double-blind trials. 

Depression: 

In a study comparing depressed older women in a nursing home showed significant improvement and remission of 40.9% compared to 16.7% of those taking placebo.(8). The same study also showed a significant improvement in their self assessed quality-of life. 

Suicide: 

A study was done on military personnel who had committed suicide. Prior to suicide they had a significantly lower blood level of DHA than personnel who did not commit suicide.(9) It was found that in this mostly male population the risk of suicide was 62% greater among those with low serum levels of DHA compared to those with higher levels. As a side note the researchers found that omega-3 fatty acid levels were generally lower in the military personnel who participated in the study, in fact much lower, than in the general population.

Anxiety: 

Using medical students in the United States for comparison, researchers found that those who received the high-dose omega-3 fatty acid showed a 20% reduction of anxiety symptoms compared to those receiving placebo treatment. They also noted that the students treated also had a 14% decrease in a marker of inflammation.(10) It should be noted however that the study used a very concentrated fish oil which was high in EPA because evidence points to EPA as having a relatively stronger anti-inflammatory and antidepressant effects than DHA. 

Alzheimer's disease: 

It has been shown in previous population studies the consumption of DHA is associated with reduced incidents of Alzheimer's disease. Animal studies also have demonstrated that DHA consumption reduces Alzheimer-like brain disease. It should be noted however that DHA from algae has not shown these same benefits even though plasma levels of DHA tripled and the amount of DHA in cerebrospinal fluid increased by 38%, meaning the DHA was absorbed. There was, however, no significant change from those taking placebo. 

Age-related cognitive decline: 

In contrast to Alzheimer's disease, age-related cognitive disease is not actually considered a disease but is more of a gradual declining of mental capacity and perhaps a normal consequence of aging. One study involving a small population of those 65 and over with mild cognitive impairment showed that those receiving a large amount of DHA with EPA had improved scores on verbal fluency, although not on any other memory or cognition test compared to those in a control group. The researchers rightfully noted that depression is a risk factor for progression to dementia so if there is a reduction in depressive symptoms this may also reduce the risk of dementia. 

Memory enhancement in healthy individuals: 

In one small study of healthy young adults, improved working memory performance was found to result with higher levels of DHA but not EPA. Participants were then asked to take higher concentrations of fish oil containing EPA and DHA daily for six months and they were tested again and scores improved.(10) 

Strength training in older women

Considering the fact that omega-3's have been shown to play a role in the plasma membrane and cell function of muscles, studies were done on mostly sedentary women in their mid 60s who were given supplements of fish oil containing both EPA and DHA. After 12 weeks of supervised lower body resistance training three times a week, the strength of those taking the fish oil had improved more than those who did not take the fish oil. It was also noted that what is referred to as functional capacity, assessing the speed of rising from a chair for instance, also increased more among those who took the fish oil. However simply taking fish oil without strength training did not show any benefit.(11)

Quality Control:

It's perhaps important to note that neither the FDA nor any other federal or state agency is responsible for or actually does routine tests on fish oil supplements for quality prior to being placed on the market. For this reason consumerlab.com chose to independently evaluate omega-3 products on the market today that claim to contain EPA and or DHA. They proceeded to test them for the levels of omega-3 fatty acids as indicated on their labels (EPA, DHA and, if listed, ALA), mercury, lead, PCBs, and signs of decomposition. An abbreviated list of the quality concerns and the issues that consumer lab tested for follows below: 

Contamination: 

Contamination has always been an issue because fish can accumulate toxins such as mercury, dioxins, and PCBs. Mercury is also a well-known element that can damage the nervous system and is particularly dangerous in a fetus. Dioxins and PCBs may be carcinogenic even at low levels of exposure over time and may also have other harmful effects. 

Freshness: 

The freshness of an oil is always an important consideration because fish oil can go rancid resulting in an unpleasant odor and taste. More importantly than odor or taste is the fact that rancid fish oils can produce a variety of compounds, some of which could cause health concerns. A study by the government of Norway concluded that there would be some health concerns related to the regular consumption of rancid fish/marine oils particularly in regards to the gastrointestinal tract. However there's not enough data to determine the amount of risk.(12) 

In conclusion:

Whew! I know this has been a long blog, but an important one I think. Consumer Lab found that of the 35 products they selected for review only 24 passed quality testing for meeting requirements for freshness, purity, and if they contained the declared amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. If the supplement had any enteric coatings they tested to see if they were properly absorbed. Considering all the various and important potential benefits of supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids and or eating fatty fish, it seems to me that it would be advantageous to read the full report that Consumer Lab published. There was in this report detailed discussion of all the varieties and ways you may be spending your money on a product that is not effective and even potentially harmful. In this report they also talk individually about each of the products they tested and why they were or were not approved. It is an extensive list of specific brand names and shows an analysis of prices, some of which are ridiculously expensive with "very low concentration" of Omega 3's. This list also shows what you are actually getting for those diminishing dollars in terms of the actual concentration of DHA and EPA. This is an important discussion because there is much confusion in this area. My husband and I have spent many hours looking at the various labels with our calculators in hand. This is no longer necessary with this excellent comparison done for you. Obviously, I'm not going to list the brands they analyzed, but just as an example, Dr. Mercola's very expensive Krill Oil was analyzed as containing a "very low" concentration of Omega 3's and at a very high cost. As a matter of fact, most of the krill oil supplements showed low to moderate levels of concentration, and these are usually more expensive. So, if you don't take Omega 3 fish oil or eat fatty fish on a regular basis, I suggest that you do. If you want to be sure that you are purchasing the best for the dollar, then spend that $33 for a one-year subscription to Consumerlab.com. No - they aren't paying me for this recommendation. They have no idea I exist other than perhaps in their record keeping as I purchase their subscription every year. 

Do you take Omega 3's? If you are a vegetarian, do you find that the ALA in plant-based foods is sufficient? How much do you spend on your supplements and where do you purchase them? Can you tell a difference when you don't take them. I can - both from an inflammatory and vascular standpoint. I can also tell from one brand to another. Trader Joe's didn't work - for me anyway.

Thanks for listening!

 

1.   Kwak S, Myung S, Lee Y, Seo H, Korean Meta-analysis Study Group f. Efficacy of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements (Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid) in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-analysis of Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Trials. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(9):686-694. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.262. 

2.   Hu FB, Manson JE. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease—Is It Just a Fish Tale?: Comment on “Efficacy of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements (Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid) in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease”. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(9):694-696. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.463. 

3.   Rizos EC, Ntzani EE, Bika E, Kostapanos MS, Elisaf MS. Association Between Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation and Risk of Major Cardiovascular Disease Events: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2012;308(10):1024-1033. doi:10.1001/2012.jama.11374. 

4.  Chowdhury R, Stevens S, et al, Association between fish consumption,  long chain omega 3 fatty acids, and risk of cerebrovascular disease: systemic review and meta-analysis: BMJ 2012;345:e6698.

5.  Hart 2009.

6.  Szymanski KM, Wheeler DC, Mucci LA.Fish consumption and prostate cancer risk: a review and meta-analysis:
Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;92(5):1223-33. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29530. Epub 2010 Sep 15.

7.  Christen WG, Schaumberg DA, Glynn RJ, Buring JE. Dietary ω-3 Fatty Acid and Fish Intake and Incident Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Women. Arch Ophthalmol. 2011;129(7):921-929. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2011.34. 

8.  Rondanelli M, Giacosa A, Opizzi A, et al. Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms and on Health-Related Quality of Life in the Treatment of Elderly Women with Depression: J Am Coll Nutr vol. 29 no. 1 55-64.

9.  Lewis M, Hibbeln J, Johnson J, et al. Suicide Deaths of Active-Duty US Military and Omega-3 Fatty-Acid Status: A Case-Control Compariso: J Clin Psychiatry 2011;72(12):1585-1590

10. Narendran R, Frankle WG, Mason NS, et al. Improved working memory but no effect on striatal vesicular monoamine transporter type 2 after omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation: PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e46832. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046832. Epub 2012 Oct 3.

11.  Rodacki C, Rodacki A, Pereira G, et al. Fish oil supplementation enhances the effects of strength training in elderly women:  Am J Clin Nutr ajcn.021915.

12.  Torkildsen Ø, Wergeland S, Bakke S, et al. ω-3 Fatty Acid Treatment in Multiple Sclerosis (OFAMS Study): A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Arch Neurol. 2012;69(8):1044-1051. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2012.283.

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