Scientists closer to unraveling the mystery of how omega-3 fatty acids halt inflammation and prevent disease throughout the body

A new study further adds to the nutritional compendium which proves just how salubrious omega-3 fatty acids are. A team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) wanted to truly understand just how these fats impacted health — particularly their potency in dampening inflammation in the body. Their medical review suggested that omega-3 fatty acids, which we get primarily through the consumption of fatty fish, changes immune cell processes. This, in turn, forcibly expels or prompts the death of dysfunctional cells and unnecessary proteins. These insights may prove useful for patients diagnosed with a subgroup of multiple sclerosis (MS) known as type 1 interferon response, which shows an increased activity in a specific inflammatory pathway.

The NTNU team focused on the effects omega-3 had on autophagy. This is the process in which cells degrade to their base proteins and organelles. Specifically, researchers looked at the macrophages which are large phagocytic cells released by the immune system to combat infections. The team saw that omega-3 fatty acids boosted that rate of autophagy in macrophages. This led to a dramatically reduced rate of inflammation.

To reach this conclusion, the group studied lab-grown mouse and human macrophages. Researchers saw that cells that received an omega-3 injection had an increased level of autophagy, causing a subtle but distinct change in the ways these cells processed signals from the environment. The omega-3 supplements likewise reduced the levels of a factor known as CXCL-10. This is a specific molecule activated in type 1 interferon response. The team saw that the fatty acid dampened the processes of CXCL-10.

The team also noted that patients who had undergone a heart transplant had better outcomes when they took omega-3 supplements.

This analytical review of omega-3 should not come as a surprise to any of us. We all know that omega-3 fatty acids are good for us. Yet, what has always remained in question was its exact mechanisms. Scientists thus far have only seen the benefits of regular intake of omega-3 but have not understood why or how the fatty acids worked. This research provides a key to answering this mystery.

Medical science is exploring the area of autophagy. This crucial degradation process has only been recently studied and verified to be extremely important in the prevention, control, and treatment of seemingly incurable diseases. Only last year, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was given to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his work on genes that controlled autophagy.

Building from his work, the Norwegian team surmised that changing the signal transformation of macrophages and their inherent autophagic processes could suppress inflammatory reactions. In doing so, they hoped to build better treatment plans for diseases caused by inflammation. (Related: The Powerful Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Preventing Diseases of Inflammation: The Experts Speak.)

Omega-3 fatty acids were chosen for their known health benefits as well as their ease of access. These supplements are regularly available at local wellness stores. The research group believe that these fatty acids can benefit patients with different forms of cancer, meningitis, MS, Alzheimer’s disease, or jaundice. This is over and above conditions that are induced by an aggravated reaction to CXCL-10. That being said, the team concluded that more work needs to be made in order to make safe assumptions.

The essential fat

Omega-3s are essential fats — the body cannot produce them naturally so we need to source them through other means. Foods that are high in these fatty acids include fish, vegetable oils, nuts, flaxseeds, and green leafy vegetables.

Most research concerning omega-3s deal with their potency in addressing cardiovascular conditions. Data proves that these fats prevent heart disease and stroke aside from controlling lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and eczema.

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