Dr. William L. Smith, investigated the 'Anti-inflammatory Effects Of Omega 3 Fatty Acid In Fish Oil Linked To Lowering Of Prostaglandin' in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2006, April 4). He discovered fish oil, which contains EPA and DHA, reduces the effectiveness and production of prostaglandins, hormone like substances that increase inflammation in the body.
Omega 3 fatty acids produce less prostaglandins than omega 6. Omega 3 fatty acids compete with omega 6 for the same binding site of COX-1 enzyme (which converts omega 6 into prostaglandin). COX-1 is the target of anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
Although omega 3 fatty acids also are converted to prostaglandins, the prostaglandins formed from omega 3 are generally 2-50 times less active than those formed from the omega 6 fatty acids.
Smith concludes 'The biochemical basis of other benefits of dietary fish oil for example, omega 3 fatty acids' impact on neuronal development and visual acuity are probably due to effects on biochemical pathways regulating nerve transmission. Understanding the different pathways through which omega 3 works to convert prostaglandin helps explain why the plant-based omega 6 fatty acids don't simply provide the same benefits.
Published in the March 2005 issue of the "Journal of Experimental Medicine," researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School studied the effects on omega-3 fatty acids on inflammation. Their findings demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids are converted to a class of lipids known as resolvins, more specifically, resolving E1 which works to lower inflammation within the body, by preventing the turning on of inflammatory cells.
EPA, DHA and the Heart
According to research published in "Circulation" by the American Heart Association, conducted by Penny M. Kris-Etherton et al, consuming omega-3 fatty acids can lower triglyceride levels by 25 to 30%. Triglycerides are another type of fat found in the blood that store unused calories to provide the body with energy later. High levels of triglycerides play a part to causing atherosclerosis, a process categorised by thickening of the blood vessel walls that causes the vessels to become hard and leads to cardiovascular disease.
Penny M. Kris-Etherton also concluded that Omega-3 fatty acids may also directly affect the heart. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of arrhythmias--irregular heartbeat. Although the mechanism of action is still unknown, scientists hypothesise that the fatty acids may help stabilise the muscular wall of the heart, the 'myocardium'. Reducing the risk of arrhythmia decreases the risk of sudden cardiac failure.
Omega-3 fatty acids, a specialized type of polyunsaturated fat, show promise in reducing risk factors and preventing the onset of cardiovascular diseases" Carl J. Lavie et al, Journal of American College of Cardiology, 2009."
EPA, DHA & the Brain
A study titled 'Eicosapentaenoic acid in treatment-resistant depression associated with symptom remission, structural brain changes and reduced neuronal phospholipid turnover' published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, Oct 2001, researchers Puri et al used MRI to corroborate clinical improvements. A patient with treatment resistant depression was given a daily dose of 4 g pure EPA, and after one month there were significant improvements, including a co-morbid social phobia. After nine months the patient was reportedly symptom free.
Bremner JD et al conducted a study titled 'Reduced volume of orbitofrontal cortex in major depression' published in Biological Psychiatry, Feb 2002 with similar results.