More Omega-3 Benefits

April 8/Denver/PRNewswire -- Improving nerve regeneration after corneal surgery, preventing psychotic disorders in those at high risk for them and reducing cellular aging are three emerging benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood, according to research described in the April 2010 PUFA Newsletter online publication for health professionals and consumers, respectively.

One study showed that after corneal surgery, such as LASIK, treating eyes with the omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) plus a nerve growth factor helped regenerate corneal nerves, which can be damaged by surgery, reducing tear production and causing dry eye syndrome. When administered together, DHA and the nerve growth factor increased corneal nerve regeneration by up to three times.

"These results suggest enhanced nerve growth after corneal surgery and the possible preservation of healthy tear production," said Joyce Nettleton, D.Sc., editor of the PUFA Newsletter. "Shedding a tear could become something to celebrate."

Another study among young patients at ultra-high risk of developing a psychotic disorder showed that after three months of consuming just over 1g of seafood omega-3s or a placebo daily, only two out of 41 patients (5%) taking omega-3s progressed to psychosis. In the placebo group, 11 of the 40 participants (28%) developed a psychotic disorder. These significant differences persisted for a year after treatment ended.

A third innovative study found that people with stable heart disease who had higher levels of DHA in their blood experienced less shortening of their telomeres than those with low DHA levels. When telomeres -- protective ends of chromosomes -- become too short, a cell no longer reproduces itself and "retires." Evidence suggests that individuals with shorter telomeres have higher cardiac mortality and other unwanted consequences of aging. These observations raise the question of whether seafood omega-3s might slow cellular aging.

Other reports in the PUFA Newsletter describe the critical importance of DHA in brain cell development and function, especially in the cortex, where learning and long-term memory occur.

"Findings suggest that DHA is essential for brain function and cell communication," Nettleton noted. "Moreover, DHA might be important in repairing neurons damaged from diseases like Alzheimer's disease, injury such as happens in stroke, and in normal cell wear and tear. DHA from seafood really appears to be brain food."

From the April 12, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition