Omega-3s may aid gum, heart health

DENVER — Omega-3 fatty acids from seafood may reduce inflammation and symptoms of gum disease and risk of abnormal heartbeats, according to recent articles in the December 2010 PUFA Newsletter and Fats of Life e-newsletters for health professionals and consumers.

Omega-3 fatty acids, namely DHA and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), may reduce disease symptoms and cartilage degeneration based on results from a U.K. study, which looked at the effect of omega-3s in cultured, stressed cartilage tissue. When low levels of EPA and DHA were added separately to the tissue, the release of a protein associated with cartilage breakdown decreased along with inflammatory substances.

"This research demonstrates the potential of omega-3s to reduce some of the damage and perhaps ease the pain that goes with osteoarthritis," stated Joyce Nettleton, editor of the PUFA Newsletter and Fats of Life.

Omega-3s also may be helpful with periodontitis, a chronic inflammatory condition that destroys gum tissue and bone if untreated. A recent U.S.-Egyptian study was the first to demonstrate that omega-3s are linked to reduced inflammation and improved symptoms in people with advanced periodontal disease. EPA and DHA (900 mg/day) plus low-dose aspirin led to improvements beyond other treatments.

In another study, patients undergoing different types of cardiac surgery who had no history of atrial fibrillation (abnormal heartbeats) or a pacemaker were given seafood omega-3s days prior to surgery. Nearly half (46%) were less likely to develop atrial fibrillation immediately after surgery than those not given any intervention.

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