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Dr. Sears' Blog

Keep Up with the Latest Nutrition Science
Written By: Dr. Barry Sears Creator of the Zone Diet

Written by Dr. Barry Sears
on April 21, 2021

A recent paper has indicated that an excellent indicator that you are less likely to die from Covid-19 is totally under your control, lowering your AA/EPA ratio (1). In this preliminary study, they simply looked at the blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 and then analyzed their death rates. Although the sample size was small, the results were striking. Those that had more omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had a 75 percent reduction in mortality. To make these results easier to understand, I converted those omega-3 fatty acid levels into their equivalent AA/EPA ratio. The results are shown below.

graph-covid19-

The average AA/EPA ratio of Americans is about 22 (2). This elevated AA/EPA ratio in Americans suggests that more than 50 percent hospitalized with Covid-19 may be at high risk of death. The other prime predictors of potential mortality from Covid-19 are age and obesity. How are these linked together? The answer may be increased intensity of cytokine storms representing uncontrolled inflammation that is the underlying cause of Covid-19 mortality.

So, the question might be how long it would take to reduce both the AA/EPA ratio and cytokine levels in high-risk elderly obese individuals by omega-3 fatty acid supplementation? The answer is 30 days, as shown below (3).

Epa-Dha-graph-

In that same four-week period, there were significant reductions in cytokines that only improved by week 8 (3).

So, what is the mechanism that allows omega-3 fatty acids to lower cytokines so rapidly? It’s complex but bear with me. The omega-3 fatty acids are biosynthesized into resolvins. These resolvins then interact with their receptors that activate AMPK. AMPK then activates SIRT1 that in turn deacetylates NF-κB which blocks the generation of cytokines (4). This sequence of events is probably more information than you wanted to know, but it only illustrates how much more complex nutrition is compared to drugs.

Okay, then how much omega-3 fatty acids did it take to get those results? The answer is about 2.5 grams of EPA and DHA per day. That is the amount of EPA and DHA in a tablespoon of cod liver oil or three to four capsules of a high-potency omega-3 fatty acid supplement.

There is no need for Operation Warp Speed or new biotechnology breakthroughs, just a simple commitment to take your fish oil every day like your great-grandmother always said.

 

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References

1. Asher A et al. “Blood omega-3 fatty acids and death from COVID-19: A pilot study.” Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 166:102250 (2021)

2. Harris WS et al. “Erythrocyte omega-3 fatty acids increase and linoleic acid decreases with age: observations from 160,000 patients.” Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 88:257-63 (2013)

3. Tan A et al. “Supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid reduces high levels of circulating proinflammatory cytokines in aging adults: A randomized, controlled study.” Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 132:23-29 (2018)

4. Sears et al. “Dietary technologies to optimize healing from injury-induced inflammation.” Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem 20:123-131 (2021)

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