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Omega 3 May Ease Menstruation and Support Heart Health

4 January 2019
Connie Packer

Woman Jumping

As I read an article about anticipated nutrition interests for 2019, I was pleased to see “promoting the body's ability to heal itself” on the list. This includes adopting lifestyle habits, using herbs, and using vitamin supplementation to support the body’s normal function and to support the body’s immune system to heal itself. January is also a time when many people reflect on what is or isn’t working in their lives and set intentions for the next 12 months. I know I have several habits that I have experimented with this last year and want to continue. I also have some other habits I want to try.

Turmeric Curcumin may support heart health and amplify LDL-lowering effects of phytosterols. Curcumin potentiates cholesterol-lowering effects of phytosterols in hypercholesterolaemic individuals. A randomised controlled trial. Two risk factors of heart disease are blood lipid levels and inflammation. Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that are known for improving blood lipid levels by decreasing total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Curcumin is known for reducing inflammation, reducing oxidation, and inhibiting cholesterol synthesis. This study involved 70 people in Australia who had total cholesterol greater than 5.5 mmol/L (that is about 212 g/dL in the US). Participants received a placebo fat spread and 2 placebo capsules, phytosterols (2 g/d in a fat spread), curcumin (200 mg/d), or a combination of phytosterol and curcumin for four weeks. The phytosterol and phytosterol+curcumin groups experienced significant decreases in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol but the change was greatest in the phytosterol+curcumin group. Using the statistic that heart disease mortality decreases 12% for every 1 mmol/L reduction in LDL cholesterol, the researchers estimated that this phytosterol+curcumin intervention decreased the heart disease mortality of participants by about 7.6%.

Omega 3 may decrease pain of menstruation. Vitamin E and fish oil, separately or in combination, on treatment of primary dysmenorrhea: a double-blind, randomized clinical trial. Painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea) is the most common menstruation complaint. It has been linked to increased prostaglandin levels. Vitamin E has been shown to inhibit arachidonic acid release and its conversion to prostaglandins. Fish oil has been shown to inhibit prostaglandin synthesis. In this study, they studied both vitamin and fish oil in treating dysmenorrhea. 100 women, 18-24 years old, with dysmenorrhea were given either a placebo, 300 mg omega-3 oil (180 mg EPA, 120 mg DHA), 200 IU Vitamin E (alfa-tocopherol acetate), or both from two days before their period was expected start until 3 days after their period started. The trial was 8 weeks long. During menstruation, participants rated their pain on a scale of 1-10. At the beginning of the trial, scores were around 7 for all groups. At the end of the trial, the groups receiving the omega-3 or the vitamin E supplements rated their pain at around a 6. The group receiving the omega-3 and vitamin E supplement rated their pain at around a 4. Since both omega-3 and vitamin E supplements are well tolerated and effective the researchers recommended trying the supplementation earlier in the luteal phase rather than just concentrating the supplementation around the start of menstruation.

Omega 3 may support heart health in pre-menopausal women. Effect of Low Dose Docosahexaenoic Acid-Rich Fish Oil on Plasma Lipids and Lipoproteins in Pre-Menopausal Women: A Dose-Response Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Blood lipid levels change throughout the menstrual cycle of women, complicating blood lipid research on pre-menopausal women. For women, cardiovascular disease risk is more closely tied to triglyceride levels than for men. This analysis involved 53 menstruating women in Australia. Participants were given 6 capsules per day that provided no omega-3 oils, 0.35g, 0.7g, or 1g/day omega-3 oils for about 8 weeks (two menstrual cycles). The capsules contained 135 mg DHA and 35 mg EPA. Data was collected on days 3-5 of the menstrual cycle. With increasing levels of omega-3 supplementation the blood level of triglycerides decreased, with the change becoming significantly different at 1g/day. Greater decreases were also seen for women with higher triglyceride levels at the beginning of the study. The researchers calculated that the 1g/day high DHA omega-3 supplement reduced triglycerides by 20% during the approximate 8 week study.

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