Special Edition: Omega-3s

Omega-3: Latest research developments

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

There are a wealth of new studies investigating new efficacies for omega-3s, including a range of health effects not previously explored. © iStock.com / arijuhani
There are a wealth of new studies investigating new efficacies for omega-3s, including a range of health effects not previously explored. © iStock.com / arijuhani

Related tags: Omega-3 form dha, Heart, Omega-3 fatty acid, Docosahexaenoic acid

Omega-3s have long been touted as beneficial for a range of areas such as brain, heart and eye health and dry eyes. What's new for these friendly fats? 

DHA & cognitive development

Dementia memory ageing cognitive brain
Omega-3 oils have been noted for their positive influence on cognitive conditions such as depression. (© iStock.com)

One study​ looked into the association between omega-3 form DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and cognition in typically developing Dutch adolescents, and found a possible improvement in information processing speed as well as less impulsivity in those with a higher omega-3 level in the blood. 

The research suggested that if a positive effect of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) supplementation on cognition was shown, this could help improve cognitive functioning and possibly the school performance of adolescents in a relatively inexpensive and easy way.

“This study is noteworthy because it reports a couple of positive associations between the omega-3 Index and cognitive measures,”​ said Harry Rice, vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs at The Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED).

“This suggests that the results from the forthcoming supplementation portion of this study could provide some much needed insight in this area of research.”

Another study​ looked at the link between prenatal and current exposure to selected LCPUFAs and school performance at age seven.

Researchers found plasma DHA levels over seven years were positively associated with reading and spelling scores, although they were quick to point out this was an observational study, which could not prove causality.

GM plant-derived omega-3

Current human consumption of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)/DHA is estimated to be only a fraction of recommended intakes and the possibility of large-scale omega-3 production from GM plants remains a distinct possibility despite reservations.

“Genetically modified plant sources of EPA and DHA could help provide for increased world demand,”​ said Rice. “After all, EPA and DHA are the same regardless from where they originate.”

Recent studies in this area are few and far between. The first demonstration​ of field stability of EPA and DHA trait in transgenic plants was recently carried out.

Here seeds from the transgenic Camelina sativa​ plant were assessed for their feasibility to make EPA and DHA-rich genetically modified crops.

Researchers believed it was one of the most complex examples of plant genetic engineering to undergo environmental release and field evaluation.

EPA & heart health

heart cardiovascular fish oil omega 3
Recent studies have linked positive health benefits of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) on the heart and cardiovascular system.

The focus of recent studies in this category built on EPA's influence on the heart and cardiovascular system.

Recent evidence from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)​showed consumption of two servings of seafood per week (4 oz per serving), which provide an average of 250 mg per day of EPA, was associated with reduced cardiac mortality from coronary heart disease or sudden death in persons with cardiovascular disease.

However, one recent study​ in the New England Journal of Medicine​ found low-dose supplementation with EPA-DHA did not significantly reduce the rate of major cardiovascular events.

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1 comment

Allergic to fish/seafood

Posted by Anna Jacobs,

What do you do if you're allergic to fish/seafood? I take flax seed oil. Is there anything else I need to do? I keep looking at the research findings and thinking I can't be the only person with this problem. They're leaving us out!

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