What are Omega fatty acids?
Omega fatty acids may be beneficial in protecting and supporting the liver and also in reducing long-term complications of liver injury due to fibrosis and cirrhosis which often result from Hepatitis C.
Fatty acids are straight chain hydrocarbons possessing a carboxyl (COOH) group at one end. Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are fatty acids involved in biological processes that are not made by humans and therefore must be obtained from the diet. There are two families of Essential Fatty Acids: omega-3s and omega-6s.
Some of the biological processes EFAs are involved in-
Essential fatty acids are modified by the body to make eicosanoids (affecting inflammation and many other cellular functions), endocannabinoids (affecting mood, behavior and inflammation), epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (producing vasorelaxation as well as anti-inflammatory and pro-fibrinolytic effects), lipoxins (anti-inflammatory mediators), and resolvins (reducing cellular inflammation) among other things. They form lipid rafts affecting cellular signaling and act on DNA. Omega-3 EFAs act as immune boosters by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. Essential fatty acids also protect the body against damage from over-reactions to infection.
Are omega fatty acids beneficial for those with Hepatitis?
The studies listed below note beneficial effects of Omega 3 and Omega 6 for the liver and can be found by their PMID # at the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=PubMed
Considering our data of blunted histologic hepatotoxicity with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, we hypothesize that this may be a method of reducing long-term complications of liver injury secondary to diseases of cholestasis such as biliary atresia, namely fibrosis and cirrhosis.
Our results suggested that flax and pumpkin seed mixture rich in omega-3 and omega-6 had anti-atherogenic and heptoprotective effects which were probably mediated by unsaturated fatty acids present in seed mixture.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) omega-3 may be associated with an increased efficacy of interferon-based therapies and an antifibrogenic effect in obese individuals with Chronic Hepatitis C.
Radiation-induced deficits in body and organ weight were significantly reduced or prevented in flaxseed oil pretreated mice. The protection afforded by flaxseed oil may be attributed to the constituents of the oil, which include omega-3 essential fatty acids and phytoestrogenic lignans, which appear to play an important role in free radical scavenging and singlet oxygen quenching.
The results of this study offer evidence for an inflammation dampening effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the context of liver inflammation.
Concurrent administration of omega-3 fatty acids (OFAs) reversed IFNalpha-induced hypertriglyceridaemia in patients with chronic hepatitis C.
Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, the major bioactive components of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), are not efficiently synthesized in humans and should therefore be obtained directly from the diet, particularly by consuming fish. Docosahexaenoic acid deficiency is associated with dysfunctions of neuronal membrane stability and transmission of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, which might connect to the aetiology of mood and cognitive dysfunction of depression. Likewise, eicosapentaenoic acid is important in balancing the immune function and physical health by reducing membrane arachidonic acid (an n-6 PUFA) and prostaglandin E(2) synthesis, which might be linked to the somatic manifestations and physical comorbidity in depression. The role of n-3 PUFAs in immunity and mood function supports the promising hypothesis of psychoneuroimmunology of depression and provides an excellent interface between 'mind' and 'body'.
My translation: Omega 3s and 6s help the body balance mood and immune function.
Conclusion on Usefulness of Omega Essential Fatty Acids for Hepatitis C:
The above mentioned studies suggests not only that omega fatty acids may be beneficial in protecting and supporting the liver but also in reducing long-term complications of liver injury due to fibrosis and cirrhosis. There is even specific research on omega-3s and hepatitis suggesting omega-3s may be associated with increased success of interferon-based therapies and an antifibrogenic effect in obese individuals with Chronic Hepatitis C. Furthermore, research shows Omega 3s and Omega 6s may have a positive impact on the immune system as well as helping prevent or lessen depression.
Though omega EFAs are not a cure for hepatitis and should not be used as a sole treatment, I was really surprised how much research there is showing how beneficial they are. Inflammation drives the pathology of hep c. AST and ALT levels are actually indicators of inflammation in the liver. Because Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory in nature, it makes sense that they should be helpful to those with Hepatitis C.
There is also a clinical trial currently underway to determine if omegas are also useful in conjunction with conventioal drugs. "The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Omacor@) on the Response Rate to Antiviral Therapy in Patients With Chronic Hepatitis C Infection"
Omega Fatty Acid Food Sources:
Some of the food sources of omega 3s and omega 6s are fish and shellfish, flaxseed (linseed), hemp oil, soya oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables, and walnuts. NOTE: The absorption of essential fatty acids is much greater from fish rather than plant sources.
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