Omega 3 Health Benefits Vary by Genetic Expression
I've been reading about the history of genetic research in The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It introduced me to the idea that genetic variance within a species increases over time. So the variety and combinations of genes in humans is likely to increase as time continues.
Gene analysis technology is allowing us to start personalizing medical treatments for our specific genome. It shows great promise in cancer treatment, pinpointing the interventions that would be effective and have minimal side effects. Now analysts are working toward tailoring supplements to a person’s unique genetic expression.
Genes Influence Omega 3 Supplement Effect
These researchers noted that, when someone’s triglyceride levels responded to Omega 3 supplements, there was a significant improvement. But not all people responded. They sought to identify which genes predicted sensitivity to Omega 3.
They started with 208 healthy people from Quebec, Canada, as part of the Fatty Acid Sensor Study. For 6 weeks, participants took a high dose of Omega 3, including 1.9–2.2 g EPA and 1.1 g DHA. This required participants to take 5 fish oil capsules a day! This dose was sure to elicit a response.
At the end of the 6 weeks, researchers determined each person’s change in triglyceride level. And they identified the responders and non-responders.
About 29% of the participants were identified as responders. When the study started, both the responder and non-responder groups had average triglyceride levels within the recommended range. But the responders tended to have levels that were higher within the recommended range.
With supplements, the responder triglyceride level dropped about 45 mg/dL. The non-responder triglyceride level increased about 15 mg/dL, but was still well within the recommended range.
Researchers compared responder DNA to non-responder DNA. They identified 31 sites spread out over 6 genes (IQCJ-SCHIP1, NXPH1, PHF17, MYB, NELL1, SLIT2) that were associated with response to Omega 3 supplements. The genes accounted for almost 50% of the difference in triglyceride level.
The researchers acknowledged recent meta analyses that question the effectiveness of Omega 3 supplements. Using their own results, they concluded that “future studies on n–3 FA and other nutrients should pay more attention to the importance of genetic factors on the interindividual variability in lipid responsiveness.”
Omega 3 Benefits from Fish Oil and Flaxseed May Vary
New Study: A comparison between the effects of flaxseed oil and fish oil supplementation on cardiovascular health in type 2 diabetic patients with coronary heart disease: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial
Participants in this study were under the age of 65. They had type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Researchers focused on measuring the difference in outcomes between fish oil and flaxseed oil supplements.
The 90 participants received either a placebo, 2 g flaxseed oil (800 mg ALA), or 2 g fish oil (500 mg EPA and 300 mg DHA) for 12 weeks.
Both the flaxseed oil and fish oil supplements resulted in decreased insulin levels and increased total antioxidant capacity. Both supplements also decreased inflammation measures.
The flaxseed supplement decreased the inflammation indicator, hs-CRP. The fish oil supplement increased inflammation-fighting glutathione.
Both supplements decreased insulin levels and improved measures of inflammation. The researchers lamented being limited because they did not have the funds to measure blood levels of Omega 3 or gene expression.
Thoughts on Trends in Omega 3 Studies
The human body is not able to make Omega 3 itself. It must be consumed.
Omega 3 is beneficial to health. But the amount and kind to optimize heart health, enhance memory, improve mood, and reduce inflammation is tricky to pinpoint.
The first study, above, points out how general population studies get muddled. And the potential therapies get hidden by genetic variation. Perhaps one person’s point of therapy is another person’s genetic variation.
The FADS1 and FADS2 genes are examples of genes that the second study, above, probably would have looked at. The FADS family of genes are involved in the synthesis and conversion of fatty acids.
Some people may need more Omega 3 than others to get their index high enough. And others may not be able to convert the ALA form to EPA or DHA very efficiently.
I am excited to see more research coming out that identifies which genes influence nutrient requirements and how supplements can be used to work around certain gene variations. Also, more researchers are recognizing that genetic analysis could improve the value of their research.
Meanwhile, make sure you get your Omega 3, check your labs, and tune in to how your body responds to your supplements.
Thrivous developed Omega Cardioprotector to support and enhance healthy heart and circulation function. Each serving of Omega provides a clinical dose of Fish Oil, as well as clinical doses of Garlic and French Maritime Pine Bark Extract. Each nutrient and each dose is backed by multiple human studies.
Like all Thrivous supplements, Omega passes through rigorous quality control. We test each nutrient multiple times to verify its identity, potency, and safety from microbes and heavy metals. And we openly publish all test results, available for download from the product webpage. This is an exceptional practice in the industry.
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