Fish oil reduces age-related blindness

October 14, 2009

New U.S. study shows that intake of fish oil may reduce the incidence of age-related blindness by 30%

There seems to be no end to blessings from fish oil.

Fish oil is the end stages in the development of omega-3 fatty acids which is transformed from alpha-linolenic acid in a number of processes to E.g. eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which then are converted to prostaglandin E 3 with a wide range of health-promoting properties.

The fish oils EPA and DHA are some of the strongest anti-inflammatory nutrients, we can consume. This is probably one of the reasons why they reduce the risk of blood clots, but they also reduces blood triglycerides, reduces inflammation in rheumatic diseases, enhances children’s learning capacity, reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia (pregnancy–induced high blood pressure) and premature birth, and gives brighter children from pregnant women who took fish oil and much more.

It is indeed difficult to see the end of the health-promoting properties, we can get from fish oil, and new scientific findings seems to emerge all the time which support its use.

Thus, even last week when researchers from the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, MD, USA, 7 October published a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Scientists have over 12 years studied 1,837 people with moderate to severe risk of age-related central blindness in the form of central atrophy or macular degeneration.

For both types of blindness, it appeared that the incidence was 30% lower in the group that took the most fish oil (0.11% of total caloric intake) compared with the group that took the least.

Although previous studies have been uncertain in its conclusions, the authors believe that the figures can be generalized, this is both a cheap and readily available intervention opportunity against risk families with high incidence of these diseases.

In times when the collective consensus have shouted in our ears that we should eat less fat, it is important to use common sense, read the research properly and stand firm.

Fat is healthy, and fat is vital!

One should obviously not wallow in margarine, french fries and chips, but make sure to eat well from the healthy fats as olive oil and especially fish oil.

It can be ingested as a liquid, as capsules, or as very attractive food.

Fish is not only healthy but also tastes very good indeed. Many people are nevertheless troubled by the increasing presence of heavy metals in fish, but if you avoid the large predatory fish as swordfish and tuna, there is significantly less in for example salmon and trout, especially if they are caught in clean rivers and lakes.

There are however problems with farmed fish, which often contains pretty much omega-6 fat, due to the fish feed composition. And this we should avoid. We already get far too much omega-6, especially linoleic acid, found in the cheap cooking oils with corn and sunflower oil, so as to avoid further bias, we must select the oily fish that are caught in the wild and not farmed.

We must remind you that in a previous newsletter we described two studies that showed that even eggs contain substances that prevent the age-related central blindness, so it may be, we soon will see a Danish ban against bread with eggs and herring. In Denmark food is not allowed to prevent a disease!

Enjoy your meal.

By: Claus Hancke, MD 


  • Sangiovanni JP, Agron E, et al. Omega-3 Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and 12-y incidence of neovascular age-related macular degeneration and central geographic atrophy: a prospective cohort study from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, Am J Clin Nutr, 2009 Oct 7 (E-pub. Ahead of print)
  • Mares JA, Larowe TL, et al. Predictors of optical density of lutein and zeaxanthin in retinas of older women in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study, an ancillary study of the Women’s Health Initiative. Am J Clin Nutr., 2006, 84(5): 1107-1122.
  • Wenzel AJ, Gerweck C, et al. A 12-wk egg intervention increases serum zeaxanthin and macular pigment optical density in women. J Nutr., 2006; 136(10):2568-73.

Fat is beneficial for the eyes

June 15, 2009

Two new studies suggest that the most common cause of functional blindness is preventable with healthy fatty acids.

This newsletter has previously suggested that certain vitamins and other nutrients have a preventive effect against the age-related macular degeneration (AMD), meaning a degeneration of the cones in the macula. The cells of the retina responsible for our central vision and our color vision.

Recently two new scientific studies have appeared from Australia, which very convincingly make probable that it is the healthy fatty acids that prevent this frequent visual impairment.

The first study showed that high intake of omega-3 fatty acids and low intake of linoleic acid protect against AMD.

In this study, 2,454 people were followed for up to 10 years, where the incidence of AMD related to their intake of fish, nuts or fatty acids in the form of supplements was recorded.

The study showed a risk reduction of 31% and 35% in those who regularly ate fish and nuts or consumed n-3 fatty acids (fish oil and flaxseed oil) and the authors advise you to make an effort to attain this and avoid a diet rich in linoleic acid that occurs especially in the cheap cooking oils e.g. corn oil.

The second study showed that high intake of omega-3 fatty acids and olive oil reduces the risk of AMD, and that a high intake of trans fatty acids increase the risk.

Data from 6,734 people between 58 and 69 years was examined.
It turned out that the highest intake of trans fatty acids increased the risk of AMD by 76% compared to the lowest.

To the contrary a high intake of fish oil also here showed a reduced risk (15%).
But most compelling was that a high intake of olive oil reduced the risk of AMD with whole 52%.

The healthy essential fatty acids is beneficial for virtually every cell in the body and bad fats can cause just as much harm.

So again in these fat frightening times let´s strike a blow for the good fat we should eat much more of

By: Claus Hancke, MD

• “Dietary fatty acids and the 10-year incidence of age-related macular degeneration: the Blue Mountains Eye Study,” Tan JS, Wang JJ, et al, Arch Ophthalmol, 2009; 127(5): 656-65.
• “Fat consumption and its association with age-related macular degeneration,” Chong EW, Robman LD, et al, Arch Ophthalmol, 2009; 127(5): 674-80

Confusion about Omega-6

February 6, 2007

Confusion regarding the essential fatty acids is the rule rather than the exception while research regarding their good effects piles up. It’s hard to find head or tail in this subject, but the quick answer is: Eat more fish!

If you want to delve into the depths of this answer, then fasten your safety belt and read on!

There is general agreement that omega-3 fatty acids have a high health value in all of their sources, from linseed oils alpha-linolenic acid to fish’s docosahexaenoic acid and prostaglandin E3.

Is this true about the omega-6 fatty acids?

There is common confusion about the health benefits of essential fatty acids, and this has not been reduced by recent public warnings against the use of polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids.

Let’s look into this:

The most common misconception is that it is possible to generalize about all omega-6 fatty acids. It is not. In the industrialized world the problem is that we are inundated with cheap linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid that is found in e.g. corn and sunflower oil. Linoleic acid alone is not that healthy either. If you eat too much of it, you build up deposits of NEFA (which has nothing to do with bicycle lights!) but means that linoleic acid builds up as a non-esterized fat, which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest (1).
The ratio between our consumption of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should be close to 2:1, but unfortunately it is closer to 20:1. The problem with linoleic acid is that we get too much of it because it is cheap.

Linoleic acid must be converted to gamma linolenic acid (GLA), followed by DGLA and prostaglandin E1, before we have the equivalent of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The first conversion (to GLA) requires an enzyme called delta-6-desaturase. There are many people this enzyme. These people are primarily people with allergies and people with diabetes. When you lack this enzyme the only way to avoid getting too much linoleic acid is to take supplementary GLA. GLA is found in evening primrose oil or borage seed oil.

If you do not lack delta-6-desaturase, the best thing to do is to limit linoleic oil intake and increase fish oil consumption.

If we eat fatty fish and fish oil we save more of the enzyme needed to convert linoleic acid to GLA. Therefore, if we balance our linoleic acid consumption with fish oil then we will not suffer as many harmful effects from unconverted omega-6 fatty acid.

Another way of reducing the amount of accumulated linoleic acid is by taking the amino acid L-Carnitine. L-Carnitine functions as a kind of oil pipeline which transports the linoleic acid directly into the cells power plant (the mitochondria), where, with the help of Q10, it is made into energy. This reduces the amount of freely circulating linoleic acid in the blood.

As explained in the above, we should avoid too much linoleic acid, whereas its converted product, GLA, is healthy and good. So the health value of omega-6 fatty acids is dependent on which omega-3 fatty acid is being discussed.

In a large summary article in Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology (2), the authors assess a long list of illnesses where GLA has an amazing effect. These include inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and cancers. GLA has been shown to be able to inhibit osteonectin, which is a protein connected cancer metastasis. GLA also has been shown to increase nerve impulse speed in diabetics.

Therefore, omega-6 fatty acids cannot be seen as either all bad or all good. This is especially true when comparing GLA with linoleic acid. Supplementation of both fish oil and GLA is a good idea.

By: Vitality Council

1. Circulating Nonesterified Fatty Acid Level as a Predictive Risk Factor for Sudden Death in the Population. Xavier Jouven, MD, PhD; Marie-Aline Charles, MD; Michel Desnos, MD; Pierre Ducimetière, PhD. Circulation. 2001;104:756.
2. Gamma linolenic acid: an antiinflammatory omega-6 fatty acid. Kapoor R, Huang Y-S, Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, 2006; 7(6): 531-4.

Fish oil is good for the heart and the brain

August 21, 2006

There is no doubt that fish oil is good for the heart. This has been shown by a new extensive survey on the subject. But no one knows how much is ideal.

The scientific interest for fish oil is enormous. Since September of last year, almost 800 articles about fish oil have been publicised in established journals.

This is with very good reason. Notably, fish oil contains two types of fatty acid, both of which are attributed with having a positive effect against many serious chronic diseases. If this is even in part true, it should be considered very imprudent not to receive fish oil every day. The primary disease that it is believed to prevent is cardiovascular disease, but there is also good reason to believe that fish oil works against, for example, depression, dementia, arthritis, and diabetes, even though there is no concrete evidence as of yet in these areas.

The two fatty acids are called EPA (eicosapentic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Together they compose one third of the contents of fish oil and two thirds of the concentrated fish oil products, which can be found in capsule form.

Much attention has been given to DHA which, contrary to EPA, is found in large amounts in the brain (14% of the cerebral cortex’s fat content) and in even greater amounts in the retina (22%). Breast fed children have much higher concentrations of DHA in their brains than bottle fed children (babies cannot produce DHA themselves). It is hard to believe that there are no consequences of receive too little.

There are an incredible number of adults who take supplements of fish oil daily to maintain their cardiac health.

But does it work?

Six months ago a group of English researchers maintained that it does not. They had looked at all of the relevant studies and then calculated the averages of their results. In their opinion, the results showed that fish oil neither protects the heart nor lengthens life span. This is just the opposite of what was previously believed.

This meta-analysis was strongly criticized and, as discussed in another of The Danish Vitality Council’s newsletters (“Fish Oil – Still indispensible”) there were so many question raised by the analysis that it lacked credibility.

Doubts regarding the dosage
This is now supported by a summary article from the distinguished American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. According to the head authors, a group of researchers undertook an extensive survey, taking “a large step forward” in spreading light into the darkness. There is no longer much doubt that fish oil reduces the overall risk of premature death and the risk of death due to a blood clot in the heart, and that it possibly reduces the risk of stroke.

Completing this survey was an extensive project. The researchers first read summaries of 8,039 scientific articles. They then picked 842 relevant articles from these to be read in their entirety. 46 articles of these 842 met the strict quality requirements and were studied further. The researches requirements regarded the length of the studies (at least one year), the dose of the fish oil given, and proper documentation.

How big are the advantages and how much fish oil should one take? This actually cannot be answered with certainty! The studies surveyed were too different regarding the dose given, the type of participants, the time taken, and so on to answer such questions. It is simply bad form to establish any averages, as the English researchers did. But if one wants to draw conclusions anyway, it is safe to guess that the overall risk of premature death and the risk of death due to cardiac disease can be reduced by 15-20% or more.

It is however nearly certain that fish oil helps those who have had a blood clot in the heart and wish to avoid another. But what about the dose, how much should one take?

Until more information surfaces, we should rely on the American Heart Association’s recommendations, which are based on estimates. Heart patients should receive 1 gr. EPA + DHA daily. This is the equivalent of about two large capsules of 1 gr. concentrated fish oil. Everyone else should receive at least half this amount. This can be achieved by eating fatty fish for dinner 1-2 times weekly.

There is a lot of knowledge lying in wait, not just about fish oil and the heart. More results will surface in the next year. While we wait we wait in the knowledge that it is important to get enough.

By: Vitality Council

1. Wang C et al. n-3 fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not á-linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular disease outcome in primary- and secondary-prevention studies: A systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:5-17.
2. Deckelbaum R et al. n-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: navigating toward recommendations. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:1-2.
3. Distribution, interconversion, and dose response of n-3 fatty acids in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83(suppl):1467S-76S.

Fish Oil – Still Indispensible!

April 7, 2006

A British study claims that fishoil does not protect the heart. Formally, it is founded on the sum of all earlier studies. In reality it relies on only one, where the participants of the study probably cheated.

As time goes by, studies of all sorts of things pile up. At some point no one can keep track of them. Even people with a good memory remember only the studies they like. This calls for a meta-analysis – a calculation of a sort of average of what all reliable studies have shown.

This has now happened in a British study of fish oil. Does fish oil protect the heart? Does it prolong life? Yes, we know that it does!

At least, so we think. According to the new meta-analysis fish oil has “no clear effect on mortality, risk of heart attack or the incidence of cancer” – rest assured, you do not need to eat fish!

As far as cancer goes, one is hardly surprised, but what about the heart? Ever since the two Danish doctors’, Bang and Dyerberg’s, studies on Greenland 35 years ago, everyone has known that fish oil protects the heart. This is confirmed by numerous studies. How can all these studies amount to a big fat zero when summarized?

Of course they cannot. A meta-analysis can be just as subjective as everything else. This means that others, with the same starting point can arrive at the opposite result. This is the case in a new, far more comprehensive, American report. There is no doubt that fish oil is beneficial for the heart. In fact, it is stated in this report that everyone should be tested to see if they get enough of it. The two important fatty acids in fish oil, DHA and EPA, have “clear beneficial effects”. Everyone should ingest at least 1.5 grams of fish oil every day, in case of heart disease, double that. This will lessen the risk of dying from heart disease by 25 %.

That was the Americans. They thoroughly reviewed the extensive biochemical knowledge and conclusions from animal and human studies. From this they made a general conclusion. What did the British do?

The Test Subjects Cheated
They completely ignored all basic knowledge and concentrated on the incidence of heart disease and mortality in humans. But were they neutral?

They reviewed a total of 48 randomized studies. But they did something strange: Only fifteen of the studies were included in the mortality calculations. Why the remaining 33 studies were not included is not known. Maybe some were excluded because of suspicion of being biased. But, in nine of the fifteen studies included, there was “medium or high” risk of bias. For example because the test subjects knew whether they were given fish oil, or, because of the draw, were given something ineffective.

On top of this, an unknown number of the 48 studies were not even with fish oil but with alpha-linoic acid – which is found in flaxseed oil and in rape oil. These oils can be converted to “fish oil” in the human body.

Besides, the most famous study of linoleic acid is missing – the so-called Lyon experiment where rape oil (and a Mediterranean diet with olive oil) lowered the mortality in patients who had had a coronary thrombosis by 73 %.

When everything is boiled down, twelve randomized studies with fish oil remain. But of these, nine are very small and without relevance. This leaves three. The biggest of these three studies, (GISSI) show a massive reduction in mortality in twenty percent of persons who had had a coronary thrombosis. In the table it only says fourteen percent, apparently because of a misunderstanding.

Only one of the larger studies (Burr et al 2003) came out with a negative result. Here the mortality increased by fifteen percent in men with sclerotic coronary arteries, when they were given fish oil.

However, this study is at the least controversial, partly because the participants knew if they were given fish oil or not. Since they had a dangerous heart disease, many of them would have been tempted to take supplements on their own. This could have been checked through blood tests, but only a spot test was taken after six months. After this the study continued for three to nine years. The spot test showed that the difference between the two groups was remarkably small. Moreover, the participants explained that even if they were not in the group given fish oil, they ate so much fat fish (14 grams a day) that this alone would have provided them with the amount recommended in the American report. So, in fact, both groups received “enough”, and the value of this study must be questioned.

Still, it was printed in the news paper. However, you should believe the American report.

Fish is good – of course!

By: Vitality Council

1. Hooper et al. Risks and benefits of omega 3 fats for mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: Systematic review. BMJ online 24.3.06: BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.38755.366331.2F
2. Wang C et al. Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. US Department of Health Care Rsearch and Human Services. . Evidence report/technology assessment Number 94. Effects of omega -3 fatty acids on cardiovascular disease. March 2004.
3. Burr ML, Ashfield-Watt PA, Dustan FD, . , et al.: Lack of benefit of dietary advice to men with angina: results of a controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr 2003, 57: 193-200.

By all Means: Enjoy a great Sauce!

February 11, 2006

One of the know-it-all expert councils has turned out to be wrong – again! A diet without fat does not benefit health.

When it comes to nutrition, the word from on high should be reconsidered. There are many who preach old advice with enthusiasm, sometimes without spouting a glimmer of truth. Nutrition is a question of religion. But it has been ten years since margarine was pushed off its pedestal, two years since sugar fell, and now the end is near for light products.

For years we have been brainwashed to believe that we must eat lean foods in order to be healthy and thin. Even though it seems obvious, this dogma has received some criticism in recent years; including from the results of multitudes of studies where fatty foods replaced easily absorbable carbohydrates. Despite these results, supporters of the old dogma recently had wind in their sails when a well known American nutrition expert misinterpreted a study and claimed that there was proof that when one eats pasta, potatoes and bread, one becomes thin.

Nobody noticed that the study had proven the opposite. Even when one eats lean foods for seven years, there is only a 400 g weight loss. Pasta and bread were not what it took to achieve this miniscule weight loss. In the study more fruit and vegetables made the food light, whereas intake of pasta and corn products was reduced by 20%.

We are used to being led astray, but now we can set the fact that in practice one does not become thinner by avoiding fat in stone. But that isn’t all; three other parts of the same study (Women’s Health Initiative) have now shown that one does not become healthier by avoiding fat.

In any event, a healthy woman between the ages 50 and 79 years cannot count on avoiding breast cancer, colon cancer, stroke, or coronary disease by reducing fat intake by 25% for eight years. Nor does it play a role for her to simultaneously increase fruit and vegetable intake from four to five portions daily.

A large and very thorough interventions study has shown this. It has been called the “Rolls Royce” of studies and it has been so expensive (three billion dollars) that it probably will never be repeated. The conclusions that we must make must therefore be taken from this study.

48,836 American women have participated. Of these 40% were placed on a diet while the rest were used as controls. Typically the women were slightly overweight but, even though they set their fat intake down from 38% to 29% of their caloric intake, they lost very little weight (waist measurement was reduced by an average of 0.8 cm). Blood pressure and cholesterol fell just as little, and the risks of falling ill with the aforementioned diseases did not change.

What was not studied
“The results for all three studies is a complete nothing,” declared leading researcher Michael Thun of the American Caner Society.

“The results must be taken seriously. Diet does not protect at all,” stated statistician David Freedman of Berkeley University. He added: “We in the scientific community often give conclusive advice based on weak groundwork. There we must do experiments.”

But does all this mean that what we eat is not important. Not even close – of course not! One must consider everything that the study did not take into account.

In the first place, there was no focus placed on the use of fish. The Italian intervention study, GISSI, which included 12,000 participants, showed a few years ago that just three grams fish oil daily reduced cardiac death in a high risk group by 30%. It is not the amount, but the kind of fat that is important.

Neither was there focus put on antioxidants. But according to a large American randomised study from 1996, supplements of the antioxidant selenium (200 microgram per day) reduce the risk of many forms of cancer by up to 50%.

That antioxidants are interesting was also seen in the seven year French SUVIMAX study form 2004. Here a fall in mortality was seen in men who received a number of antioxidants (selenium, zinc, vitamins C and E, zinc, and beta carotene) in moderate doses.

Nor was there focus on vitamin D, which is believed to have a future in the prevention of prostate cancer, enlarged prostate, breast cancer, arthritis, among others. Folic acid, which is believed to prevent breast cancer, osteoporosis, and more, was also lacking from the study.

The list could easily be longer. The important find of the study is that the dietary advice that experts have given out for years, without any doubts at all, has been disproved! It has only benefited the lucrative industry of light products.

This should be a wake up call in all camps. When is one an expert?

A study involving an increased fat intake has actually not been made. Therefore results of eating in this way are as yet unknown. Maybe we should just concentrate on eating fat of a higher quality that we are used to. Let us enjoy good butter and healthy olive oil.

By: Vitality Council

1. Prentice R et al. Low fat dietary pattern and risk of invasive breast cancer. JAMA 2006;295:629-42.
2. Buzdar A U. Dietary modification and risk of breast cancer. JAMA 2006;295:691-2.
3. Kolate G. Low-fat diet does not cut health risks, study finds. The New York Times 8.2.06.
4. Beresford S A A et al. Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of colorectal cancer. JAMA 2006;295:643-54.
5. Howard B V. Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of cardiovascular disease. JAMA 2006;295:655-66.
6. Appel L A. Dietary modification and CVD prevention. JAMA 2006;295:693-5
7. Howard B V. Low-fat dietary pattern and weight change over 7 years. JAMA 2006;295:39-49.

Lipoic Acid. Perhaps The Medicine Of The Future?

January 25, 2006

Lipoic acid is a simple fatty acid which is produced in all human cells. It is considered to be the ideal antioxidant and it may actually be highly beneficial against diabetes, neurological damage, and more. However, it is banned in Denmark.

Is lipoic acid the medicine of the future? There are many who believe this is so. One of the worlds leading experts in the field of antioxidants, Lester Packer of Southern California University, has emphasized that lipoic acid is the ideal antioxidant and a recent article by Polish researchers cautiously comes to the same conclusion.

Packer maintains that “from a therapeutic viewpoint, few natural antioxidants are ideal.” He continues by indicating that an ideal antioxidant should fulfil many demands: It should be absorbable by the intestines, occur in a form useful to the cells and have many antioxidant effects (including interaction with other antioxidants) in both cell membranes and the organism’s aqueous phase. It also must be completely non-toxic. Packer believes that lipoic acid is unique among antioxidants because it fulfils these demands. Lipoic acid is a potentially very effective medicine in many situations where free oxygen radicals are implicated.

Lipoic acid is a small sulphur containing fatty acid. It was discovered in 1950, but its special anti-oxidative properties were first noticed during the 1980’s. It is a very strong antioxidant, considerably stronger than vitamin C. It is also both fat and water soluble, which means that it can enter and have effects both outside and inside the cells. When other antioxidants such as vitamins E and C are used up, they can be “recharged” by lipoic acid so that they can be used again. It is also necessary for the cells’ metabolism and for a period it was considered to be a vitamin, but when laboratory animals did not suffer damage from lipoic acid deficiency, this idea was dropped.

Diabetes and nerve damage
The question of whether or not it is a good idea to take lipoic acid supplements should be addressed. The previously mentioned Polish researchers analysed some of the as yet very limited knowledge in this area and found that lipoic acid may be especially interesting for diabetics. Studies on animals with type II diabetes have shown strong improvement of their diabetes with lowered blood sugar levels and better utilization of their bodies own insulin with lipoic acid supplements. Many studies have shown that lipoic acid improves nerve function in diabetics with nervous inflammation.

Just as interesting, lipoic acid may be an effective weapon against the protein damage caused by heightened blood sugar. In a process called protein oxidation the proteins change structure in a way which is similar to what happens when an egg is boiled. This oxidation is an important part of the explanation for diabetics’ tendency to get cataracts, where the lens of the eye becomes clouded. In animal studies this is counteracted by lipoic acid.

The apparent nerve protective properties have lead to studies in Alzheimer’s treatment. In two studies it was found that the disease was halted by lipoic acid, but these results should be considered as provisional. The same result has been found in studies of Parkinson’s disease.

Does lipoic acid prevent cancer? The Polish researchers are uncertain. Their tissue studies indicate that small doses promote growth, while large doses inhibit growth. Dare we claim that this effect speaks for supplementation? We produce small doses of lipoic acid without help.

Only about 1,000 articles on lipoic acid can be found in the medical database, Medline. Research is still in its infancy. Even so, entering lipoic acid into Google gives over two million links (search “lipoic acid”).

By: Vitality Council

Bilska A et al. Lipoic acid – the drug of the future? Pharmacological Review 2005;57:570-77.

Dietary Supplement Strengthens Immuno-Therapy Against Breast Cancer

November 7, 2005

An American study has shown that the pioneering cancer medicine against breast cancer, Herceptin, can be made 30-40 times more effective when used in conjunction with a harmless dietary supplement: gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). The study’s results are preliminary but calls for further investigation.

Every year, almost 3,500 Danish women get breast cancer. Approx. every fifth of them have a particularly aggressive form of cancer, which you may fear in particular, if you find cancer in the lymph nodes of the armpit during surgery. The aggressive cancer is due to a gene in the affected women which is particularly active and forms large amounts of HER2, a protein. When HER2 adheres to the surface of a breast cell, it reacts with growth agents in the blood that can transform the cell into a cancerous cell and stimulate it to growth.

However, since 1998, there have been medicine available that, in the same way as an antibody, have been able to block HER2 and thus weaken the growth stimulation. The name of the drug is Herceptin® (Trastuzumab) and so far only women have been offered this, who in addition to being “HER2 positive”, have had recurrence of breast cancer that has spread.

More recently, however, research has shown that Herceptin also helps when it is given much earlier, namely as soon as it is known after the operation that the woman is HER2-positive. In Denmark, the treatment can be relevant for approx. 450 women annually. In an experiment with approx. In 3,350 women who received Herceptin for one year, the risk of recurrence of the disease was halved and mortality was reduced by a third. In a Belgian trial with just over 5,000 women, the risk of relapse was also halved – to approx. 6%. Overall mortality was also reduced in this trial, but only slightly and not statistically significantly.

The Danish Cancer Society is now calling on women who have had surgery for breast cancer to find out whether they are HER2-positive and should have the treatment. But unfortunately it is not as risk-free as it sounds. HER2 also plays a role in the heart, and chemotherapy along with blocking HER2 is a cocktail that can cause heart failure. This happens in up to 20%, many of whom have to stop the treatment. How they fare in the long term is not known.

GLA and Herceptin collaborate
All this is mentioned only to say that HER2 can apparently – sensationally – also be attacked from a completely unexpected angle. The vital fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), used by many as a dietary supplement, also (in laboratory experiments) inhibits HER2, but by a different mechanism than Herceptin. According to researchers from Northwestern University in the USA, GLA enhances the effect of Herceptin no less than 30-40 times, without affecting healthy cells. The combination means that many more cancer cells die, while others are inhibited in their growth.

The way it works is complicated. The experiments suggest that GLA stimulates the formation of a protein (PEA3), which in turn inhibits the gene that must produce HER2. Since GLA and Herceptin therefore intervene separately – one blocks the formation of HER2, the other blocks the effect – they reinforce each other. Previous experiments have shown that GLA can also independently inhibit cancer in the laboratory.

If even a little of this applies to living people, it is a sensation. But it must be emphasized that these are only laboratory experiments at the cellular level. Further extensive research is needed. It is, as the authors write, on the other hand required. What women with HER2-positive breast cancer must do here and now is, among other things, for now up to the individual.

By: Vitality Council

1. Piccart-Gebhart et al. Trastuzumab after adjuvant chemotherapy in HER2-positive breast cancer. N Engl J Med 2005;353:1659-72.
2. Romond EH et al. Trastuzumab plus adjuvant chemotherapy for operable HER2-positive breast cancer. N Engl J Med 2005;353: 1673-84.
3. Menendez JA et al. Effect of gamma-linolenic acid on the transcriptional activity of the Her2/neu (erbB-2) oncogene. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005;97:1611-15.

Children Get Smarter From Taking Fish Oil

October 24, 2005

The omega-3 fatty acid DHA in fish oil is an important building block for the brain. DHA deficiency in the first years of life may impact the normal development of the child’s brain.

Are children getting smarter from eating fish? Recent studies suggest that fatty acids in fish oil can help certain children with ADHD or dyslexia. But what about infants?

By: Vitality Council

Mc Cann J C, Ames, Bruce N. Is docosahexaenoic acid, an n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid, required for development of normal brain function? An overview of evidence from cognitive and behavioural tests in humans and animals. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:281-95

Fish Oil Prevents Stroke

April 25, 2005

Many believe that fish oil protects against stroke, but French researchers have now discovered how this works. Fish oil helps the brain to better cope with a reduced blood supply.

Fish oil must be close to being the world’s best medicine. If you get fatty fish two to three times a week, you protect yourself against suddenly suffering cardiac arrest. The risk is halved. But also the risk of a blood clot in the brain – by far the most frequent cause of so-called cerebral hemorrhage – and thus suffering a stroke, decreases. According to the largest, but not final study, so far, it is reduced by 40%.

It is consistent with animal research. Mice that are artificially exposed to a blood clot in the brain get less extensive brain damage if they in advance are fed with fish oil. Now French scientists have proven a mechanism that might explain this phenomenon.

Scientists from France’s National Science Research Center, CNRS, are behind the discovery. They have shown that the protection of the brain cells is due to the effect of fish oil on the cell’s potassium channels.


By: Vitality Council

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