Out of Context

30 08 2010

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A recent study from the Netherlands[i] prospectively looked at the value of omega 3 fatty acids in patients who recently had a heart attack. Most of the previous recommendations showing benefit had come from smaller studies and a large meta-analysis suggesting a 20%-36% risk reduction for animal derived omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids can be obtained from animal sources (principally marine) where they are found in the form of n−3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Plant sources are primarily found as n−3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and their benefit has been of borderline significance.

The study looked at over 4500 men and women aged 60-80 over a four year period. They were given placebo margarine, an EPA-DHA enriched margarine, a ALA enriched margarine or an EPA-DHA and ALA enriched margarine. There was no benefit to adding the omega 3 fatty acids to margarine, although there was a trend toward benefit in women receiving ALA enriched margarine. In looking specifically at diabetics subgroup, there appeared some benefit, especially with the EPA-DHA.

The authors conclude that the lack of benefit may be due to the composition of the study group, new treatments and medicines that reduce the benefit of omega 3 fatty acids and thus make it difficult, statistically, to show a protective effect, or there simply was no benefit. An additional possibility is that by taking the omega 3 fatty acids “out of context”, additional and necessary compounds that work with these molecules were not present. Much in the same way that many studies have shown health benefits for populations consuming moderate amounts of wine, yet studies with large doses of isolated anti-oxidants have, for the most part, not demonstrated the same level of benefit. Despite that, the conclusion consistently reached is that it is the effect of these anti-oxidants that are responsible for the benefit.

So as words taken out of context can lose their intended meaning, nutrients taken out of context can lose their benefit. Eat them as nature intended, take them in context, and most of all, enjoy.

[i] (Kromhout, Giltay, & Geleijnse, 2010)




3 responses

30 08 2010

Fabulous. I just love reading about these studies. More so, I love how you paraphrase what could be very tedious and make it relevent to the everyday man (woman). Thanks, Doc.

Now, how does this study tie in with the Chaos Theory, discussed previously? Would this study have had different findings if performed with…..40-60 yr olds or…..20 – 40 year olds? Would a lesser degree of indoctrinated lifestyle have been able to move the mountain (chemically)? This has been rumbling around in my head since your Chaos Theory piece, and I’m very curious as to its validity. Your thouhghts?

31 08 2010

@BB: Thx! When intelligent people like you enjoy the reading, well, that’s why we do it! Absolutely could have been different with a different sample group. Age has a large impact in that these folks all had heart attacks and thus by definition advanced coronary artery disease. Perhaps if they had started younger the benefit would have shown up; it may just take more time or perhaps be of value preventing disease but no so good once you’ve already got disease. You’ve got more insight than a lot of the interns and residents I used to teach!

31 08 2010
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[…] Out of Context « What's Cookin' with Doc: The Rx Pad […]

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