Omega-3 Fatty Acids are Effective in Reducing Chronic Inflammation and Insulin Resistance
Jerrold Olefsky, MD, and colleagues have identified a key receptor on special immune cells known as macrophages. These cells are abundantly found in obese body fat. Obesity and diabetes are closely correlated. The scientists say omega-3 fatty acids activate this macrophage receptor, resulting in broad anti-inflammatory effects and improved systemic insulin sensitivity.
Macrophages are specialized white blood cells that engulf and digest cellular debris and pathogens. Part of this immune system response involves the macrophages secreting cytokines and other proteins that cause inflammation, a method for destroying cells and objects perceived to be harmful. Obese fat tissue contains lots of these macrophages producing lots of cytokines. The result can be chronic inflammation and rising insulin resistance in neighboring cells over-exposed to cytokines.
Insulin resistance is the physical condition in which the natural hormone insulin becomes less effective at regulating blood sugar levels in the body, leading to a host of severe health problems, most notably type 2 diabetes.
Olefsky and colleagues looked at cellular receptors known to respond to fatty acids. When the receptor is turned off, the macrophage produces inflammatory effects. But exposed to omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil supplements, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the receptor is activated and generates a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
“It’s just an incredibly potent effect,” said Olefsky, a professor of medicine and associate dean of scientific affairs for the UC San Diego School of Medicine. “The omega-3 fatty acids switch on the receptor, killing the inflammatory response.”
“This is nature at work,” said Olefsky. “The receptor evolved to respond to a natural product — omega-3 fatty acids — so that the inflammatory process can be controlled. Our work shows how fish oils safely do this, and suggests a possible way to treating the serious problems of inflammation in obesity and in conditions like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease through simple dietary supplementation.”
Walnuts May Help Reduce Stress and May Help Reduce Blood Pressure
Previous studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids — like the alpha linolenic acid found in walnuts and flax seeds — can reduce low density lipoproteins (LDL) or the “bad cholesterol.” These foods may also reduce c-reactive protein and other markers associated with inflammation. Walnuts are a rich source of fiber, antioxidants, and unsaturated fatty acids, particularly alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, and these compounds could be responsible for the beneficial effects on blood pressure.
“People who show an exaggerated biological response to stress are at higher risk of heart disease,” said Sheila G. West, associate professor of biobehavioral health. “We wanted to find out if omega 3-fatty acids from plant sources would blunt cardiovascular responses to stress.”
The researchers found that including walnuts and walnut oil in the diet lowered both resting blood pressure and blood pressure responses to stress in the laboratory. Participants gave a speech or immersed their foot in cold water as a stressor. Adding flax seed oil to the walnut diet did not further lower blood pressure. They report their findings in the current issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
“This is the first study to show that walnuts and walnut oil reduce blood pressure during stress,” said West. “This is important because we can’t avoid all of the stressors in our daily lives. This study shows that a dietary change could help our bodies better respond to stress.”
Results showed that average diastolic blood pressure — the “bottom number” or the pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting — was significantly reduced during the diets containing walnuts and walnut oil.
Flax oil is a more concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids than walnut oil, but this study did not test whether flax oil alone could blunt cardiovascular responses to stress.
“These results are in agreement with several recent studies showing that walnuts can reduce cholesterol and blood pressure,” noted West. “This work suggests that blood pressure is also reduced when a person is exposed to stress in their daily life.”
Studies Show Lack of Sleep Prevents Weight Loss
“If your goal is to lose fat, skipping sleep is like poking sticks in your bicycle wheels,” said study director Plamen Penev, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. “Cutting back on sleep, a behavior that is ubiquitous in modern society, appears to compromise efforts to lose fat through dieting. In our study it reduced fat loss by 55 percent.”
When dieters in the study got a full night’s sleep, they lost the same amount of weight as when they slept less. When dieters got adequate sleep, however, more than half of the weight they lost was fat. When they cut back on their sleep, only one-fourth of their weight loss came from fat.
They also felt hungrier. When sleep was restricted, dieters produced higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger and reduces energy expenditure.
I find that those suffering with poor sleep are often deficient in the natural sleep hormone melatonin. Bright light, antidepressants, sedatives, anti-inflammatory drugs, and certain blood pressure drugs deplete melatonin.
Fortunately for those who do struggle with their sleep they can simply take an inexpensive sublingual melatonin supplement.
The story goes that some time ago, a man punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree.
Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.” He was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found the box was empty.
He yelled at her, “Don’t you know that when you give someone a present, there’s supposed to be something inside it?
The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, “Oh, Daddy, it is not empty. I blew kisses into the box. All for you, Daddy.”
The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness.
It is told that the man kept that gold box by his bed for years and whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.
In a very real sense, each of us as humans have been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children,
friends, family and God. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.
— Author Unknown
Burn Those Calories!
Running Burns 374 calories in 30 minutes
The typical runner’s shape is sleek and lean, and there’s a reason for that: The major running muscles — legs, butt, core — happen to be the biggest calorie-and-fat-burning muscles in your body.
To get the most out of each stride, swing your arms close to your body, don’t lean forward, and keep your feet low to the ground. To lessen impact, land on the middle of your foot, then roll through to your toes.
Walking vigorously Burns 170 calories in 30 minutes
That’s right, walking actually made our list. Full disclosure, though: A leisurely stroll with a friend won’t cut it. You should be walking briskly enough that it’s difficult to keep up a steady conversation.
To get the most from your biggest calorie-burning muscles — legs, butt, and core — take short, quick steps, keep your torso upright, and pump your arms back and forth (not side to side) in time with your stride. With each step, land on your heel and roll through to your toes.
Boost the burn: Alternate two minutes of brisk strides with one minute of as-fast-as-you-can-go walking (or jogging).