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Friday, September 23, 2011

U.S. Army Pushing Fish Oil


How much fish oil do you think Geronimo had?
He and his band of 36 or so evaded several thousand U.S. soldiers for months. They had no doubts about their cause.
This has been all over the news lately. I'm not sure if this will be the answer to military suicides. It is no magic bullet, but fish oil is a good idea for anyone interested in being healthy and feeling good.
As for the U.S. Army, when I was part of it in the immediate post-Viet Nam era of the early 70's, we used to say that half the Army spent their spare time reading comic books while the other half just looked at the pictures. (This is an in-family joke, I will fight anyone making fun of the Army who hasn't served.)
I believe that a coherent and consistent mission with credible leaders does more for the mental health of soldiers than anything else. Politicians who manipulate men's lives to promote their own partisan idealogy create more dissonance than any amount of fish oil can counter-act. A Warrior is sustained by a sure knowlege that his cause is just.
The Army is eager to know whether omega-3 fatty acids not only are good for the heart, but also might deter soldiers from killing themselves.
"I'm all over it, because I'm looking for something to help," says Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, who has been working for years to reduce the service's record number of suicides.
Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry last month showed that men in the service with low levels of an omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, were 62% more likely to commit suicide. The researchers compared routine blood samples taken from 800 servicemembers from 2002 to 2008 — and who months later committed suicide — with samples taken from 800 other servicemembers.
The authors say their findings do not suggest fish oil is a way to deter suicides. The Army suicide rate reached 22 per 100,000 last year, higher than civilians of the same age group.
Omega-3s are found naturally in foods such as fatty fish and walnuts and have been shown to help prevent heart disease. Preliminary studies suggest that the supplements could help relieve symptoms of certain depressions, the Mayo Clinic says. Experts note that fish oil's potential benefits for mental health need to be confirmed in larger, more rigorous studies.
Even so, the potential psychiatric benefits of omega-3s could be a factor in reducing the suicides, says Joseph Hibbeln, a co-author of the Journal study and nutritional neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health.
"I'm trying to make sure our docs get going as fast as they can to get some clinical trials going so we can make a determination whether or not there's anything to this," Chiarelli says.
Some findings have been disappointing. A study in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that fish oil supplements didn't help prevent preterm labor. The supplements, marketed to boost brain development, also didn't make babies smarter, the Journal of the American Medical Associationsaid last year.
Some like their fish oil fresh!!

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