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Fish oil, vitamin D benefit fibromyalgia, preserve brain function, studies find

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DHA and EPA, and vitamin D are among the most well-researched nutrients, with study after study showing they provide far reaching benefits to human health. Two recent studies published January 17, 2014 and January 22, 2014 in separate journals add more reason to get adequate levels of these nutrients — preserving brain cells and reducing pain.

With this growing body of positive scientific literature a greater number of consumers are taking these supplements on a daily basis — and for good reason.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are omega-3 fatty acids vital to human health that are found predominantly in cold water fish and other marine life. They help maintain a healthy brain, cardiovascular system, eyes, joints, inflammatory response, cholesterol levels, skin and energy levels, and are critical to human growth and fetal development.

According to a June 2006 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition adults should aim for 500 mg of DHA and EPA daily to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin D has its own long list of benefits, as studies suggest it helps protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders, infectious diseases, diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders. It is also vital for bone health, encourages healthy cholesterol levels, helps regulate blood pressure, relieves body aches, helps fight depression and improves overall skin health.

The human body can synthesize vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, however, the amount you gain from this practice depends on your skin tone, the season, the time of day and amount of skin you expose to sunlight. It is likely that a dietary supplement is required to reach the optimal level of 50 ng/ml recommended by the vitamin D council.

Many people fear losing brain capacity and mental function more than dying and go to great lengths to preserve their cognitive abilities. And according to research released in the January 22, 2014 edition of Neurology higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with preservation of brain cells.

Researchers analyzed the DHA and EPA levels of 1,111 women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Study. Eight years later these women underwent an MRI scan to measure brain volume.

What the researchers found was that women with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids had larger total brain volumes and a larger hippocampus volume. This preservation of brain volume is equivalent to up to two years of brain health, according to the study.

These findings are significant considering that a decrease in brain volume is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and often the hippocampus atrophies before any symptoms of AD manifest. The hippocampus is involved in memory and learning and converting short term memory to long term memory.

According to the American Chronic Pain Association more than 6 million Americans suffer with fibromyalgia (FMS) — a syndrome characterized by widespread muscle pain and fatigue, sleep disturbances and memory difficulties. Research published in the January 17, 2014 edition of PAIN offers hope for these individuals.

The study authors randomized 30 women with FMS and low serum levels of califediol — a precursor hormone produced in the liver by hydroxylation of vitamin D3 — to a treatment or control group. Serum califediol levels are considered the best indicator of vitamin D status. The treatment group was administered vitamin D supplements orally for 20 weeks, with a goal of achieving vitamin D levels between 32 and 45 ng/ml.

The researchers observed a significant reduction in perceived pain and morning fatigue, as well as improvements in physical role functioning among the treatment group, while the control group remained unchanged. Considering how safe and economical vitamin D is, the researchers’ concluded that vitamin D supplementation can be considered an alternative or adjunct therapy for FMS patients.

For more about supplementing for optimal health read Five supplements every adult should take, which includes vitamin d and fish oil.

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