Fish oil as a source of omega 3 fatty acids

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Fish oil, inflammation, and pain

Fish Oil Significance

Fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These acids function to inhibit inflammatory responses. Other essential fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, enhance inflammatory responses. According to Dr. Richard Liebowitz at Every Day Health, research in laboratories and on humans demonstrates that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, including that associated with arthritis and bursitis.

Inflammatory Pain Effects

Research reported at the National Institutes of Health and done by neurologist J.C. Maroon from the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center found that fish oil improves the subjective experience of pain. Patients with nonsurgical neck or back pain took 1,200 mg per day of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. After an average of 75 days, 59 percent of the participants discontinued their anti-inflammatory medications for pain, and 60 percent of the patients reported that their joint pain had improved. Almost 90 percent of the participating patients reported that they would continue to take the fish oil.

Neuropathic Pain Effects

Dr. Gorgon Ko and his colleagues reported in the February 2010 Clinical Journal of Pain on five case studies involving neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain that results from deterioration of the protective coating to nerves or other pathological conditions that cause chronic feedback loops of enduring, dysfunctional pain. Dr. Ko advised patients with diverse syndromes--including fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel, burn injury and cervical radiculopathy--to consume high dosages (2,400 to 7,200 mg per day) of omega-3 fatty acids. These patients reported significant improvement in pain and function. Improvements were sustained as long as 19 months after treatment began.

Diet and Supplements

Fish oil supplements may be particularly important due to dietary trends. Historically, humans consumed foods that provided a more or less equal amount of these omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, creating a balance of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory biochemicals. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, modern western diets favor the consumption of omega-6 over omega-3 fatty acids due to people's reliance on foods containing vegetable oils from corn, safflower seeds, cottonseed, sunflower seeds and soybeans. Rather than consuming proportionate amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 foods, people consume 20 to 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. To establish a healthier balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, and to reduce neuropathic and somatic pain, fish oil supplements can be taken daily. Read the supplement labels to ensure that the oils have been filtered to eliminate mercury and other heavy metals, and always follow package instructions.