Omega-3 Supports Heart Health in Seniors

fish-oil-pills-heartHeart disease remains the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States, accountable for 1 in 4 deaths every year. The good news is that we can support heart health by making smarter choices about what we eat and how we live—and one of those choices may be adding more Omega-3 to our diet, say scientists from Pennsylvania State University.

In a small study involving a dozen seniors between 60 and 80 years of age, researchers found that daily supplementation with Omega-3 EPA and DHA may improve cardiovascular function in healthy older adults. Specifically, the increased Omega-3 consumption had a positive effect on arterial stiffness.

As we get older, heart health begins to decline as part of the normal aging process. That decline may result in a hardening or stiffening of the arteries over time, even in people who adhere to a healthy lifestyle. When arteries stiffen, the heart has to work harder to pump blood through them, which can lead to bigger problems later on.

After just three months of taking two Omega-3 supplements twice daily (a total of 4,000 mg each day), participants in the study experienced a notable reduction in arterial stiffness, suggesting that consuming more Omega-3 may promote healthy cardiovascular function as we age.

“These findings provide support for the concept that increased Omega-3 intake may be an efficacious therapy in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in aging humans through effects on central arterial stiffness,” the study authors wrote, pointing out that the effects occurred in a relatively short period of time.

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Is Too Much Fat and Sugar Dulling Your Brain?

pizzaUntil only recently, it may have seemed silly to say the bacteria in your digestive tract can somehow “talk” to your brain, but more and more scientists are finding evidence of such a relationship. They call it the gut-brain connection, and last month researchers at Oregon State University revealed how a poor diet can impact that connection and lead to a decline in healthy brain function.

The standard American diet (or SAD) includes high amounts of sugar and unhealthy fats, which OSU scientists say may affect our ability to process and remember information. Specifically, a high-sugar, high-fat diet impacts something called “cognitive flexibility,” which allows us to think about more than one idea at a time. Too much fat and sugar also leads to problems with memory, say researchers.

The study involved young, healthy male mice who were fed one of three different diets: a high-sugar diet, a high-fat diet, or a normal diet. Fecal samples were taken before and after to monitor the bacterial environment in the gut, and both groups underwent testing to assess physical and mental function.

Looking at the results, the research team discovered a sharp decline in mental and physical ability for those mice on the high-sugar and high-fat diets when compared with those on a normal diet. Cognitive flexibility was decreased with both groups, and those on the high-sugar diet experienced significant memory impairment. Interestingly, the fecal samples of both groups showed lower numbers of beneficial bacteria and higher numbers of harmful bacteria in the gut.

“This work suggests that fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that’s one of the reasons those foods aren’t good for you.” said lead author Dr. Kathy Magnusson. “It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.” Previous studies have found that similar changes in gut bacteria due to diet may trigger an unhealthy immune response in the body and promote inflammation.

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