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Nutrition, Vitamins & Supplements for Seniors

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Could Lead to Negative Health Effects If Taken in Excess

Studies have found Omega-3s are associated with lower risk of sudden cardiac death and other cardiovascular disease outcomes

Oct. 28, 2013 – A new review of previous studies suggests that omega-3 fatty acids taken in excess could have unintended health consequences in certain situations, and that dietary standards based on the best available evidence need to be established. One hidden problem is that a growing number of food products are being enhanced with Omega-3 for its anti-inflammatory properties, which have made them popular with seniors.

“What looked like a slam dunk a few years ago may not be as clear cut as we thought,” said Norman Hord, associate professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and a coauthor on the paper.

“We are seeing the potential for negative effects at really high levels of omega-3 fatty acid consumption. Because we lack valid biomarkers for exposure and knowledge of who might be at risk if consuming excessive amounts, it isn’t possible to determine an upper limit at this time.”

Previous research led by Michigan State University’s Jenifer Fenton and her collaborators found that feeding mice large amounts of dietary omega-3 fatty acids led to increased risk of colitis and immune alteration. Those results were published in Cancer Research in 2010.

 

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Eating Fish, Nuts for Omega-3 May Not Help Improve Thinking Skills for Older Women After All

Unfortunately study did not find a protective effect in older women; most randomized trials of omega-3 supplements have not found an effect,

Sept. 25, 2013

Senior Citizens Live Years Longer by Consuming Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Fish

Risk of dying from heart disease significantly lowered: Seniors with highest blood levels of the fatty acids lived 2.2 years longer

April 2, 2013

Seniors See 35% Reduction in Cardiovascular Death Risk from Eating Heart Healthy Diet

AHA Heart Healthy diet offers significant protection for older people with cardiovascular problems from recurring attacks

Dec. 6, 2012

Fish Oil Helps Heal Bed Sores of the Critically Ill

Tel Aviv University research finds a 20-25 percent reduction in pressure ulcers with a fish oil enriched diet; maybe it has a role in general pain management, too

Dec. 4, 2012

More links to archived reports on fish oil below news story.


Read more on Nutrition, Vitamins & Supplements

 

As a follow-up, in the current issue of the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes & Essential Fatty Acids, Fenton and her co-authors, including Hord, reviewed the literature and discuss the potential adverse health outcomes that could result from excess consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.

Studies have shown that omega-3s, also known as long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs), are associated with lower risk of sudden cardiac death and other cardiovascular disease outcomes.

“We were inspired to review the literature based on our findings after recent publications showed increased risk of advanced prostate cancer and atrial fibrillation in those with high blood levels of LCPUFAs,” Fenton said.

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which is one of the reasons they can be beneficial to heart health and inflammatory issues. However, the researchers said excess amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can alter immune function sometimes in ways that may lead to a dysfunctional immune response to a viral or bacterial infection.

“The dysfunctional immune response to excessive omega-3 fatty acid consumption can affect the body’s ability to fight microbial pathogens, like bacteria,” Hord said.

Generally, the researchers point out that the amounts of fish oil used in most studies are typically above what one could consume from foods or usual dosage of a dietary supplement. However, an increasing amount of products, such as eggs, bread, butters, oils and orange juice, are being “fortified” with omega-3s. Hord said this fortified food, coupled with fish oil supplement use, increases the potential for consuming these high levels.

“Overall, we support the dietary recommendations from the American Heart Association to eat fish, particularly fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, lake trout or sardines, at least two times a week, and for those at risk of coronary artery disease to talk to their doctor about supplements,” he said.

“Our main concern here is the hyper-supplemented individual, who may be taking high-dose omega-3 supplements and eating four to five omega-3-enriched foods per day,” Hord added. “This could potentially get someone to an excessive amount. As our paper indicates, there may be subgroups of those who may be at risk from consuming excess amounts of these fatty acids.”

Hord said there are no evidence-based standards for omega-3 intake and no way to tell who might be at health risk if they consume too high a level of these fatty acids.

“We’re not against using fish oil supplements appropriately, but there is a potential for risk,” Hord said. “As is all true with any nutrient, taking too much can have negative effects. We need to establish clear biomarkers through clinical trials. This is necessary in order for us to know who is eating adequate amounts of these nutrients and who may be deficient or eating too much.

“Until we establish valid biomarkers of omega-3 exposure, making good evidence-based dietary recommendations across potential dietary exposure ranges will not be possible.”

Sanjoy Ghosh from University of BC-Okanagan, Canada and Eric Gurzell from Michigan State University also contributed to this study, which was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Diabetes Association.

More Links to Archived Stories about Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Eating Oily Fish Weekly Defends Against Stroke; Supplements Less Effective

Results from use of long chain omega 3 fatty acid came from 38 studies involving nearly 800,000 individuals in 15 countries

Oct. 31, 2012

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Does Not  Lower Risk of Major Cardiovascular Disease Events

‘Our findings do not justify the use of omega-3 as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice’ for cardiovascular protection, says large review of published studies

Sept. 11, 2011

Cognitive Decline in Seniors Not Slowed by Omega-3 Fish Oil in Short Term

But researchers say longer term effects of omega-3 on cognitive decline and dementia need to be explored; urge seniors continue eating fish regularly

July 10, 2012

Seniors May Find Relief for Spine Damage with Omega-3, Curry Spice Diet

Diet minimized disease-related changes and repaired damage to the spinal cord of UCLA lab rats – preserved walking - June 26, 2012

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Fish Oil Lowers Inflammation in Overweight Older People

New study adds another check mark for fish oil as an effective defender against illness

June 20, 2012

Aging Brains May Stay Sharp, Avoid Shrinkage, Alzheimer's with Proper Diet

Good choices Bs, C, D, E & omega 3; also diets high in trans fats more likely to produce brain shrinkage, lower scores on thinking, memory

Jan. 4, 2012

Eating Baked, Broiled Fish Wards Off Cognitive Decline, Alzheimer’s Disease

Senior citizens  nearing danger zone of cognitive problems should eat fish weekly

Dec. 6, 2011

Fish Oil Supplements Appear to Help Older People Think Better, Save Brains

There was clear association between fish oil supplements and brain volume

Aug. 17, 2011

Omega-3 Fish Oil Does Not Slow Cognitive or Functional Decline in Alzheimer's Disease

New study indicates DHA supplement not useful for those with mild to moderate AD - watch JAMA video - Nov. 3, 2010


My Aching Knees Seemed to Be Cured by Omega-3, New Study Says It May Be True

UK researchers find omega-3 fatty acids slow down osteoarthritis, at least in guinea pigs; I think it worked for me!

By Tucker Sutherland, editor, SeniorJournal.com

Oct. 17, 2011 – As an active – well very active – tennis player for many years, when I turned 70 I was worried my playing days might end due to my aching knees. I never took the court without wearing the latest in knee protection devices. Then, shortly after I increased my daily regimen of fish oil pills, the knee pain disappeared. I was convinced my joints were now better “oiled.” New research says there may be something to this. Read more...


Related Archive Stories

A number of studies have now linked Omega-3 with reducing the risk of AMD - major cause of blindness in senior citizens

Women Reduce Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration With Fish, Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Women who ate the most fish did the best at reducing the risk of this leading cause of blindness in senior citizens - March 15, 2011

Fish Oil Supplements Appear to Help Older People Think Better, Save Brains

There was clear association between fish oil supplements and brain volume

Aug. 17, 2011


High Level of Omega-3 in Blood of Older Men Hikes Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Study leader says beneficial effects of eating fish to prevent heart disease still outweigh any harm related to prostate cancer risk - April 25, 2011


Women Reduce Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration With Fish, Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Women who ate the most fish did the best at reducing the risk of this leading cause of blindness in senior citizens

March 15, 2011

 

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