In our pursuit of health (the state of being free from illness or injury) we discovered the magic of meditation, the wonderful benefits of prayer, and the infusion of mind, body, and spirit through the consumption of tea. In this pursuit, we have come across various writings, videos, and artistic presentations which can further these efforts. To be of additional service to you, we have compiled an assortment of these works which you may find helpful. Please enjoy as we have.
Omega-3 fatty acids can lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. You can incorporate omega-3s into your diet by eating certain kinds of fish and nuts, or by taking supplements containing these healthy compounds, including fish oil. Considered “healthy fats,” omega-3 fatty acids may also provide other heart-healthy benefits and even prevent cardiovascular disease.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are types of polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish, plant based sources, and certain supplements. These fats include:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
ALA is available as a supplement, but can also be found in a variety of plant products, including seeds (especially chia seeds and flaxseed), soybeans, and nuts.
EPA and DHA are commonly found in the following foods:
All three types of omega-3s are referred to as “healthy fats” because they do not appear to promote atherosclerosis, known for causing heart disease. However, studies have primarily examined the effect that DHA and EPA have on the reduction of lipids and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. ALA continues to be studied and may be less effective.
How Do Omega-3s Affect Lipids?
DHA and EPA have been primarily studied when looking at the effect that omega-3 fats have on lipid levels. The usual doses of EPA and DHA used in these studies ranged between 250 mg and 500 mg grams to 5 grams per day. However, there is no recommended daily dose for either.
In order to achieve amounts noted by researchers, you would need to consume a lot of fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and other foods containing these fats. Supplements can be used to bring more omega-3 fats into your diet and help achieve the target amount. Overall, omega-3 fats appear to have a favorable impact on your lipid levels.
Omega-3 fats have a notable effect on triglyceride levels:
- One study showed that ingesting 900 mg of omega-3 fatty acids each day resulted in a 4 percent decrease in triglyceride levels after about six months.
- The most effective dose of omega-3s used in most studies was between 2 and 4 grams. This resulted in a drop in triglycerides between 25 percent and 45 percent.
- The effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids on triglycerides appears to be dose-dependent. This means that the more omega-3 fatty acids ingested, the lower your triglyceride levels will fall.
- Omega-3 fatty acids seem to affect recently ingested triglycerides and work best when following a healthy diet.
- Individuals with extremely high triglyceride levels (greater than 500 mg/dL) appear to get the most benefit from omega-3 fatty acid supplementation.
Although EPA- and DHA-containing products can lower triglyceride levels, they may affect other parts of your lipid profile as well:
- Omega-3 fats can slightly raise your LDL cholesterol. This change, however, is modest and ranges from 3 percent to 10 percent.
- Omega-3 fats – despite increasing your LDL – also increase the size of your LDL. Smaller LDL particles can increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis, whereas larger LDL particles are considered beneficial for your heart health.
- Consuming omega-3 fatty acids also appears to slightly increase HDL levels.
More Heart-Healthy Benefits of Omega-3 Fats
Besides having a favorable effect on your lipid profile, omega-3 fats also have a positive impact on other aspects of your heart health.
- Omega-3 fats appear to help keep your heart beating at a normal rate. This is important for patients at risk of heart attack because arrhythmias are the leading cause of cardiac deaths in the United States.
- Omega-3 fats may improve the function of blood vessels.
- Omega-3 fats may lower blood pressure and heart rate.
- Omega-3 fats may reduce inflammation at larger doses.
- Studies have shown that individuals with cardiovascular disease who consume fish oil may have a decreased risk of sudden death and death due to cardiovascular disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids are available in a variety of foods and supplements, including fish oil. Studies have found that the DHA and EPA found in fish oil can produce favorable changes in several risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, though fresh fish is more effective.
Some experts, including the American Heart Association, recommend eating one to two servings of fatty fish per week. One serving consists of 3 1/2 ounces of cooked fish.
If you don’t like eating fish, a fish oil supplement containing about one gram of omega-3 fats is an alternative. However, you should not increase your dose further without consulting with your healthcare provider. High doses of omega-3 fatty acids may affect blood platelet levels, causing a person to bleed and bruise more easily.
Prescription vs. OTC Supplements
Prescription omega-3 fatty acids contain a certain amount of natural or modified forms of omega-3 fatty acids. They are purified and are thoroughly rid of impurities such as trans-fats, mercury, or other contaminants. Prescription omega-3 fatty acids are usually taken by individuals with very high triglyceride levels who are in need of larger doses of omega-3 fats to bring their triglycerides down.
Supplements that are available over-the-counter (OTC) are classified as “foods” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, they do not have to undergo the rigorous purification processes or efficacy studies that prescription drugs have to go through.
A Word From Verywell
The evidence does show that incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into your diet can have a positive impact on your cholesterol levels. The best source is fresh fish and other foods that naturally contain these healthy fats.
As we start the new year, many people are looking to lose weight. Fasting, the voluntary abstention from eating is an ancient weight loss method with a long track record of success. However, many people forget the cardinal rule of fasting, or indeed, of any kind of dietary change – always make sure you are doing it safely.
I highly recommend a great new documentary now available for purchase/ rent online called Fasting – The Movie. It presents the science of fasting and how people can lose weight and even reverse many metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and its related conditions. Given the importance of these diseases in modern day medicine, this is nothing short of revolutionary. However, taken to an extreme, fasting can also have its dangers. This is true not just for fasting but for anything. If you take veganism to an extreme, you may put yourself in danger, for example, of vitamin B12 deficiency. If you take the low fat diet to an extreme, you are at danger of vitamin D deficiency. If you take salt restriction to an extreme, you may be at danger of volume depletion. If you take exercise to an extreme, you may put yourself at danger of rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown). Everything must be done responsibly, with knowledge and with common sense.
Fasting is no different. Because fasting is already more intensive than most diets, taking fasting to an extreme can be problematic. The movie goes into some of the dangers of fasting and explores many of the variants of fasting that are popular and may be beneficial for people. Simply put, fasting is a weapon to be used in the fight against obesity related conditions and perhaps some aging related conditions.
But, like any weapon, it has two edges. It has real power, and that power can be used constructively and it can also, in the wrong hands, be used destructively. It is all a matter of context and applicability. Much of the resurgence of interest in fasting as a therapeutic option centers around intermittent fasting – generally of shorter duration done consistently and frequently. The 5:2 diet, popularized by Dr. Michael Mosley is 2 days of fasting per week, but those ‘fasting’ days still allows 500 calories per day. Time restricted eating such as a 16:8 schedule, allows you to eat during only 8 hours of the day, so 16 hours are spent fasting. Many of the patients in my Intensive Dietary Management program use 24 hour to 36 hour fasts 2-3 times per week, and this is done under medical supervision with their physician.
Certainly I use extended fasting as well, but generally limited to 7-14 days, only in the appropriate person and with supervision. Clients are always instructed to stop immediately if not feeling well, and we also check in with them regularly. Longer fasts have more power, but more risk. To me, there is no reason to fast for 30 consecutive days just for the sake of argument. Why not do 4 separate 7-day fasts instead? It will have roughly the same beneficial health effects with far less risk.
By contrast, in Fasting – the movie, director Doug Orchard tells the story of a young lady who decided to join a 30 day water-only fasting retreat. As far as I can tell, there was no medical supervision, and there was no bloodwork being checked and there was no professional who even determined whether this was appropriate. One of my primary rules for fasting is that if somebody is underweight or there is concern about malnutrition, then they should not fast. Underweight is defined by Body Mass Index < 18.5, but for a margin of safety, I don’t recommend that anybody fast longer than 24 hours if they have a BMI< 20. The reasoning seems rather obvious. During the fasting period, the body must survive on the nutrients and energy stored. If you have lots and lots of body fat (stored food energy), then you should be fine. If you do NOT have lots and lots of body fat, then it’s NOT fine. It’s stupid.
People get into trouble with extended fasts because they don’t follow common sense. Many of these fasting retreats offer 30 day water only fasts. If you become depleted of sodium (quite common), there are no doctors there to monitor for warning signs. If you become very weak and unable to get out of bed, there is very clearly something wrong, and you should not continue fasting. This is common sense. In my IDM program, clients know that they may feel hungry, maybe a little irritable, constipated perhaps, but they should not feel UNWELL. If you are really feeling poorly, you muststop. There is no reason to continue, because fasting is free. It is far better to stop and try it again (if you want) in a few days when you are feeling better. The problem with these fasting retreats is that people have paid money to be there and therefore they push on far beyond the limits of good safety practice and far beyond the limits of common sense.
Further, people undertake extreme fasting without any kind of preparation. Instead of undertaking shorter fasts and gradually extending it, they immediately opt for a full on water-only extended fast. This is like a rookie mountaineer that decides that he/she will tackle Mount Everest, without oxygen and push on to the summit irregardless of weather. The experience mountaineer would immediately recognize this as a death wish, but the rookie has no inkling of the dangers and may come home in a body bag. It’s pure stupidity. Yet fasting clinics promote this very same idea. Taking the most extreme fast (water-only fasting, as opposed to allowing some bone broth or some caloric intake), to an extended period of time (30 days instead of 1-2 days), in anybody irregardless of whether this is medically appropriate, without any adequate medical supervision or access to bloodwork? I can tell you right now, that’s pure stupidity.
A recent article in the New York Post “Is this the most dangerous diet ever?” tells of a man who, in an attempt to lose weight, decided that he would fast for 47 days. At day 5 he was feeling great. At day 28, he was so weak that he could hardly get out of bed. NOT smart. This is NOT something that I would advise. The Daily Mail shared similar concerns in its own article.
Consider the story of the marathon. According to legend, in 490 BC the Greek soldier Pheidippides ran approximately 26 miles from the battlefield near the town of Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of the defeat of the Persians. He shouted Niki! (Victory) and then promptly keeled over and died.
Suppose a sedentary, middle aged, out of shape man decided to run a full 26 miles at maximum speed tomorrow, without any type of preparation or knowledge. He might very well keel over and die, too. Indeed, in 2014, a 42 year old man died after the London Marathon, the event’s second death in 3 years. Later that year, a 31 year old man and a 35 year old man died in a North Carolina event. Since marathon is a relatively extreme event for most people, it takes some preparation to do safely. That’s easy to understand so you don’t see hysterical headlines saying “Running, the most dangerous thing ever”. If you want to run a few minutes, that probably won’t kill you. Running a marathon in an untrained state could very well do so.
So the bottom line is that fasting, done properly and with knowledge and experience is a powerful tool in the fight against metabolic disease and obesity. But tools can cut both ways and can sometimes harm the user. A chainsaw is a powerful tool for cutting trees. It may also kill you if used improperly. But the proper lesson is not to abandon the chainsaw. Instead, we need to learn how to properly use the tool. Fasting, used responsibly can be a powerful force for health. Fasting, used inappropriately can hurt or kill you. Fasting by starting out skipping a meal here and there – good idea. Fasting by starting out 30 day water only fast come hell or high water – bad idea. There’s a ton of free information on fasting that I‘ve written extensively on my blog. Just search for the 40+ posts I’ve labelled with ‘Fasting’. I’ve also posted free videos and podcasts, too. So cost is not an issue. Be safe, everybody.
Anne Trafton | MIT News Office
May 3, 2018
As people age, their intestinal stem cells begin to lose their ability to regenerate. These stem cells are the source for all new intestinal cells, so this decline can make it more difficult to recover from gastrointestinal infections or other conditions that affect the intestine.
This age-related loss of stem cell function can be reversed by a 24-hour fast, according to a new study from MIT biologists. The researchers found that fasting dramatically improves stem cells’ ability to regenerate, in both aged and young mice.
In fasting mice, cells begin breaking down fatty acids instead of glucose, a change that stimulates the stem cells to become more regenerative. The researchers found that they could also boost regeneration with a molecule that activates the same metabolic switch. Such an intervention could potentially help older people recovering from GI infections or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, the researchers say.
“Fasting has many effects in the intestine, which include boosting regeneration as well as potential uses in any type of ailment that impinges on the intestine, such as infections or cancers,” says Omer Yilmaz, an MIT assistant professor of biology, a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and one of the senior authors of the study. “Understanding how fasting improves overall health, including the role of adult stem cells in intestinal regeneration, in repair, and in aging, is a fundamental interest of my laboratory.”
David Sabatini, an MIT professor of biology and member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the Koch Institute, is also a senior author of the paper, which appears in the May 3 issue of Cell Stem Cell.
“This study provided evidence that fasting induces a metabolic switch in the intestinal stem cells, from utilizing carbohydrates to burning fat,” Sabatini says. “Interestingly, switching these cells to fatty acid oxidation enhanced their function significantly. Pharmacological targeting of this pathway may provide a therapeutic opportunity to improve tissue homeostasis in age-associated pathologies.”
The paper’s lead authors are Whitehead Institute postdoc Maria Mihaylova and Koch Institute postdoc Chia-Wei Cheng.
For many decades, scientists have known that low caloric intake is linked with enhanced longevity in humans and other organisms. Yilmaz and his colleagues were interested in exploring how fasting exerts its effects at the molecular level, specifically in the intestine.
Intestinal stem cells are responsible for maintaining the lining of the intestine, which typically renews itself every five days. When an injury or infection occurs, stem cells are key to repairing any damage. As people age, the regenerative abilities of these intestinal stem cells decline, so it takes longer for the intestine to recover.
“Intestinal stem cells are the workhorses of the intestine that give rise to more stem cells and to all of the various differentiated cell types of the intestine. Notably, during aging, intestinal stem function declines, which impairs the ability of the intestine to repair itself after damage,” Yilmaz says. “In this line of investigation, we focused on understanding how a 24-hour fast enhances the function of young and old intestinal stem cells.”
After mice fasted for 24 hours, the researchers removed intestinal stem cells and grew them in a culture dish, allowing them to determine whether the cells can give rise to “mini-intestines” known as organoids.
The researchers found that stem cells from the fasting mice doubled their regenerative capacity.
“It was very obvious that fasting had this really immense effect on the ability of intestinal crypts to form more organoids, which is stem-cell-driven,” Mihaylova says. “This was something that we saw in both the young mice and the aged mice, and we really wanted to understand the molecular mechanisms driving this.”
Further studies, including sequencing the messenger RNA of stem cells from the mice that fasted, revealed that fasting induces cells to switch from their usual metabolism, which burns carbohydrates such as sugars, to metabolizing fatty acids. This switch occurs through the activation of transcription factors called PPARs, which turn on many genes that are involved in metabolizing fatty acids.
The researchers found that if they turned off this pathway, fasting could no longer boost regeneration. They now plan to study how this metabolic switch provokes stem cells to enhance their regenerative abilities.
They also found that they could reproduce the beneficial effects of fasting by treating mice with a molecule that mimics the effects of PPARs. “That was also very surprising,” Cheng says. “Just activating one metabolic pathway is sufficient to reverse certain age phenotypes.”
Jared Rutter, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah School of Medicine, described the findings as “interesting and important.”
“This paper shows that fasting causes a metabolic change in the stem cells that reside in this organ and thereby changes their behavior to promote more cell division. In a beautiful set of experiments, the authors subvert the system by causing those metabolic changes without fasting and see similar effects,” says Rutter, who was not involved in the research. “This work fits into a rapidly growing field that is demonstrating that nutrition and metabolism has profound effects on the behavior of cells and this can predispose for human disease.”
The findings suggest that drug treatment could stimulate regeneration without requiring patients to fast, which is difficult for most people. One group that could benefit from such treatment is cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy, which often harms intestinal cells. It could also benefit older people who experience intestinal infections or other gastrointestinal disorders that can damage the lining of the intestine.
The researchers plan to explore the potential effectiveness of such treatments, and they also hope to study whether fasting affects regenerative abilities in stem cells in other types of tissue.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the V Foundation, a Sidney Kimmel Scholar Award, a Pew-Stewart Trust Scholar Award, the MIT Stem Cell Initiative through Fondation MIT, the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund, the American Federation of Aging Research, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the Robert Black Charitable Foundation, a Koch Institute Ludwig Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Glenn/AFAR Breakthroughs in Gerontology Award, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.