NEWSLETTER 13 - 4 : The n-3 Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency Diseases

In the past 2 decades, views about dietary n-3 fatty acids have moved from speculation about their functions to solid evidence that they are not only essential nutrients but also may favorably modulate many diseases. Docosahexaenoic acid (22:6 n-3), which is a vital component of the phospholipids of cellular membranes, especially in the brain and retina, is necessary for their proper functioning. n-3 Fatty acids favorably affect atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, inflammatory disease, immunity and perhaps even behavioral disorders.

Connor WE. Importance of the n-3 fatty acids in health and disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000 Jan, 71(1 Suppl): 171S-5S.

Heart Attacks and Strokes
Chronic Inflammation
Auto immunity

The Consequences of the n-3 Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency

A fat-unrestricted Western diet contains more n-6 than n-3 EFAs. Lowering the fat content of the diet (the low-fat diet) worsens the situation increasing the n-3 deficiency.

a - The Western diet and its low fat hype are factors of the increasing number of heart attacks and strokes

b - The Western diet and its low fat hype are factors of the increasing number of chronic inflammation.

c - The Western diet and its low fat hype are responsible of the increasing occurrence of allergies and auto-immunity like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Immune-Mediated or Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma, and Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases to name only a few.

d - The Western diet and its low fat hype reduce the synthesis of the molecules our biochemistry makes from n-3 EFAs, to maintain the integrity of our cell membranes, particularly in the cells from the brain and the retina triggering Behavioral Change.

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a - Heart Attacks and Strokes

The n-3 EFA deficiency is a factor of coronary arteriosclerosis

"Epidemiological studies have shown an inverse correlation between consumption of fish or other sources of dietary n-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular events." (More).

von Schacky C. n-3 fatty acids and the prevention of coronary atherosclerosis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000 Jan, 71(1 Suppl):224S-7S

n-3 EFAs Stabilize the Heart rhythm

" It has been shown that in animals, and probably in humans, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are antiarrhythmic.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids stabilize the electrical activity of isolated cardiac myocytes. " (More).

Leaf A; Kang JX; Xiao YF; Billman GE.Dietary n-3 fatty acids in the prevention of cardiac arrhythmias. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care., 1998 Mar,1(2):225-8.

Alpha Linolenic Acid reduces stroke risk

"Higher serum levels of the essential fatty acid alpha Linolenic acid are independently associated with a lower risk of stroke in middle-aged men at high risk for cardiovascular disease." (More).

Simon JA; Fong J; Bernert JT Jr; Browner WS. Serum fatty acids and the risk of stroke. Stroke, 1995 May, 26(5):778-82.

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b - Chronic Inflammation

Clinical Trials

"Preliminary clinical trials have shown certain beneficial effects of fish oil intakes in diseases associated with inflammatory reactions"

Gerster H. The use of n-3 PUFAs (fish oil) in enteral nutrition. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 1995, 65(1):3-20

A study concerning 2,349 smokers

"In smokers the prevalence odds of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are inversely related to the Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) content of plasma lipid components " (More).

Shahar E; Boland LL; Folsom AR; Tockman MS; McGovern PG; Eckfeldt JH. Docosahexaenoic acid and smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study Investigators. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 1999 Jun, 159(6):1780-5.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

"Ingestion of dietary supplements of n-3 fatty acids has been consistently shown to reduce both the number of tender joints on physical examination and the amount of morning stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In these cases, supplements were consumed daily in addition to background medications and the clinical benefits of the n-3 fatty acids were not apparent until they were consumed for > or =12 wk. It appears that a minimum daily dose of 3 g Eicosapentaenoic and Docosahexaenoic Acidis necessary to derive the expected benefits. " (More).

Kremer JM. n-3 fatty acid supplements in rheumatoid arthritis.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000 Jan, 71(1 Suppl):349S-51S

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c1 - Allergy

"Approximately 5% of children younger than 3 years and 1.5% of the general population experience food allergic disorders, indicating that about 4 million Americans suffer from food allergies.

The mainstay of therapy remains avoidance of incriminated foods and education to deal with inadvertent exposures."

Sampson HA. Food allergy. Jama, 1997 Dec 10, 278(22):1888-94

There is more to do than only avoidance of incriminated foods and education to deal with inadvertent exposures. While avoiding incriminated foods sufferers from food allergies should supplement their diet with Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and with EPA rich food.

The reasons are obvious :

Solid Evidence Indicate that Allergy In Children is Linked to n-3 EFA Deficiency in the Mother

"Low levels of n-3 PUFAs in human milk, and particularly a high AA:EPA ratio in maternal milk and serum phospholipids in the infants, were related to the development of symptoms of allergic disease at 18 months of age." (More).

Duchen K; Casas R; Fageras-Bottcher M; Yu G; Bjorksten B.Human milk polyunsaturated long-chain fatty acids and secretory immunoglobulin A antibodies and early childhood allergy.Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 2000 Feb, 11(1):29-39.

How Comes Breast Feeding Protect Against Allergy?

"Low levels of LNA and total n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, in mature milk from the mothers, appear to be associated with atopic sensitization early in life, " (More).

Duchen K; Yu G; Bjorksten B. Atopic sensitization during the first year of life in relation to long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in human milk. Pediatric Research, 1998 Oct, 44(4):478-84.

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c2 Auto-immunity

Auto-immunity is best described as a condition where the immune system turns its attention and directs its action against oneself, resulting is a large variety of overlapping health deterioration.

"The word auto is the Greek word for self. The immune system is a complicated network of cells and cell components (called molecules) that normally work to defend the body and eliminate infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and other invading microbes. If a person has an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks self, targeting the cells, tissues, and organs of a person's own body. A collection of immune system cells and molecules at a target site is broadly referred to as inflammation.

There are many different auto-immune diseases, and they can each affect the body in different ways. For example, the Auto-immune reaction is directed against the brain in multiple sclerosis and the gut in Crohn's disease. In other Auto-immune diseases such as systemic Lupus Erythematosus, affected tissues and organs may vary among individuals with the same disease. One person with Lupus may have affected skin and joints whereas another may have affected skin, kidney, and lungs. Ultimately, damage to certain tissues by the immune system may be permanent, as with destruction of insulin-producing cells of the pancreas in Type 1 diabetes mellitus."

(Text from the web site of the National Institute of Health)

The above text in italic is copied from one of the web site of the National Institute of Health (NIH). Visit the NIH website for a comprehensive review on auto-immunity and auto-immune diseases, and information concerning among other, the following auto-immune conditions :

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Multiple Sclerosis
Immune-Mediated or Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Auto-immune Thyroid Diseases

There are many web sites devoted to allergy and to auto-immune diseases. There is one site for almost each allergic and auto-immune condition.

The role of prostaglandins in immunity and the capacity of a n-3 Essential Fatty Acid (n-3 EFA) supplementation to down regulate (with time) an overactive immune system is totaly ignored by those web sites.

The Web site of the Canadian Asthma Prevention Institute (CAPI) is a notable exception.
People with Asthma should visit this well organized, updated and very informative web site.

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d - Behavior

The n-3 Essential Fatty Acids Are Important Constituents of Brain Cell Membranes.

"t is of interest that DHA is specifically localized in the retina and the brain in humans and other mammals. The longer chain omega 3 fatty acids are rapidly incorporated into cell membrane phospholipids where it is regarded they influence the metabolism/metabolic events within the cells. The mechanisms by which these changes occur include alteration in the fluidity of membranes such that there are subtle changes in receptor function, alteration in cell signaling mechanisms, membrane-bound enzymes, regulation of the synthesis of eicosanoids, and regulation of gene expression."

Sinclair AJ; Murphy KJ; Li D. Marine lipids: overview "news insights and lipid composition of Lyprinol". Allergie et Immunologie, 2000 Sep, 32(7):261-71.


"Geographic areas where consumption of DHA is high are associated with decreased rates of depression. DHA deficiency states, such as alcoholism and the postpartum period, also are linked with depression. Individuals with major depression have marked depletions in omega-3 EFAs (especially DHA) in erythrocyte phospholipids compared with controls. "

Mischoulon D; Fava M. Docosahexanoic acid and omega-3 fatty acids in depression. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 2000 Dec, 23(4):785-94.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

"During the last 50 years, many infants have been fed formula diets lacking DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids. DHA deficiencies are associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria, unipolar depression, aggressive hostility, and adrenoleukodystrophy."

Horrocks LA; Yeo YK.Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) [see comments]. Pharmacological Research, 1999 Sep, 40(3):211-25.

Alzheimer Disease

"Decreases in DHA in the brain are associated with cognitive decline during aging and with onset of sporadic Alzheimer disease."

Horrocks LA; Yeo YK.Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) [see comments]. Pharmacological Research, 1999 Sep, 40(3):211-25.

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