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One particular omega-3 may help fight liver disease

Category: Organ Specific Testing

It's now become very common to hear about the growing obesity problem in the U.S., but many people may still not understand the far-reaching consequences of being overweight. For example, excess pounds may not only harm the heart, but the liver as well. For example, the Mayo Clinic states that being obese can increase a person's risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is a liver problem that can occur even if a person does not drink alcohol excessively. This is why overweight individuals should make sure to get a liver panel test, which can detect any of the early signs of liver damage.

Over the years, research has suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may help protect against liver disease, so people may want to work to get more of these healthy lipids into their diet. Recently, scientists from Oregon State University discovered that one particular type of omega-s seems to have a more powerful ability to protect the liver than the rest.

Not all omega-3s are the same
Researchers set out to compare the effects of the two major forms of omega-3s - DHA and EPA - on the liver. They discovered that while EPA was ineffective when it came to preventing fibrosis or scarring of the liver, DHA was able to reduce the amount of proteins involved in liver fibrosis by more than 65 percent.

"A reduction of that magnitude in the actual scarring and damage to the liver is very important,” said Donald Jump, a principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU and a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. "Many clinical trials are being done with omega-3 fatty acids related to liver disease. Our studies may represent the first to specifically compare the capacity of EPA versus DHA."

The researchers specifically tested if DHA could effectively help combat nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). According to the scientists, NASH is a form of liver disease that is a product of excess fat stored in the liver. About 30 to 40 percent of people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease progress to NASH, which is why it's important for overweight individuals to know how to prevent this and other forms of liver disease.

How to get more omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids have been in the news a lot in the past few years as a number of studies have found that they have powerful health benefits. For example, the University of Maryland Medical Center states that omega-3s have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.

Omega-3s can be taken in supplement form, but they can also be found in foods. According to, one of best sources of DHA is salmon, which also contains healthy amounts of vitamin D. However, salmon isn't the only fish that contains DHA, it is also in tuna, swordfish, anchovies, herring and sardines.

These fatty acids are an important part of the Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with improved heart health and weight management.

People who don't consume fish should talk to their doctor about taking supplements.

"Based on these results, DHA may be a more attractive dietary supplement than EPA for the prevention and potential treatment of NASH in obese humans," concluded Jump.

Furthermore, even though it was not found to benefit the liver, EPA is still good for the body. This fatty acid can be found in flaxseed, walnuts and tofu.

Finally, along with consuming more DHA, overweight individuals should be sure to order lab tests that may indicate a high risk of developing a serious liver condition so they can work with their doctor to do something about it.

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