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A big study of the effects of fi...

Posted Sep 11 2008 3:52pm

A big study of the effects of fish oil is taking place at Ohio State University. From its website:

The beneficial effects of fish oil (or eating fish more frequently) include reductions in triglycerides, blood pressure, and heart rate, as well as increases in HDL cholesterol, the “good” type of cholesterol. In addition, certain aspects of immune function also appear to show favorable responses to fish oil supplementation, and some studies suggest that fish oil helps to improve mood and decrease depression. This study is designed to examine how supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (key fish oil components) affects aspects of your immune response, and your mood; because some research suggests that people who eat more fish may do better during stressful times, the study will also examine how fish oil affects your immune response to stress, certain stress hormone responses, and your psychological response to stress.

I was especially curious how they are measuring brain function. Here’s how:

At Visit 1 and Visit 5 [16 weeks after Visit 1] only, you will be asked to perform various tasks for about 20 minutes; these will include making a short speech and computing arithmetic problems without pencil or paper in the presence of other research team members. You will be audiotaped while you complete these tasks. . . At Visit 1 and Visit 5 only, the researchers will administer short tests that measure aspects of memory and concentration to see if the fish oil supplements have positive effects on learning and memory. For example, you might be asked to memorize several words, and then you would be asked which of the words you remember several minutes later.

Each subject participates for 24 weeks. The study, which started in 2006, is supposed to end in 2010, with 138 subjects in two groups (69 per group).

Tyler Cowen’s experience with flaxseed oil implies that omega-3 supplementation can dramatically reduce inflammation within a few weeks. My research shows that omega-3 supplementation can improve brain function within a few hours. This study appears to be much larger than necessary.

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