Probing Health Benefits From Eating Omega 3s

by Jeanne Whalen
(The Wall Street Journal - September 14, 2009)

Many a carton of milk or yogurt now brags of its fortification with omega 3s, a trend that has made the dietary additive seem like just the latest marketing gimmick for health-minded consumers.

But omega 3s, a family of unsaturated fatty acids, have been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. And now, the compounds are being studied by scientists around the world as potential treatments for a wide range of other serious conditions, ranging from Alzheimer's disease to epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis. Further research also is being done on omega 3s' role in preventing heart disease to determine the full range of potential benefits.

Omega 3s are found naturally in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, and in some botanical sources such as flaxseed and kiwi fruit. A variety of firms also sell omega 3s as dietary supplements. Scientists say the benefit to the body should be the same whether they are consumed through food or capsules.

Many scientists believe omega 3s provide health benefits in part by reducing inflammation, which can contribute to heart disease, arthritis and other ailments. But researchers are still attempting to understand how exactly omega 3s interact with the body. And studies for a number of medical conditions aren't far enough along to know whether the fatty acids could be beneficial.

Read the complete article here at The Wall Street Journal

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