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Pr Charles Serhan: Omega-3 against Chronic Inflammation

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MD-FM INSIGHT : Omega-3 Fatty Acids For Chronic Inflammation

 

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Clementine:

Hello! You’re on MD-FM INSIGHT, the first medical web radio. Today we’ll be devoting our "Question & Answer" program to nutrition and how it can help reduce chronic inflammation, as seen in arthritis and inflammatory diseases.

 

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Clementine:

Recently, researchers uncovered why the fatty acids in our diet are so important, in part because they turn into active compounds that help regulate the body’s immune response during inflammation. At the 20th International Congress of Nutrition, in Grenada, Spain, we interviewed Professor Charles Serhan, director of the Center for Experimental Therapeutics and Reperfusion Injury, at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, in Boston. His team discovered some of the mechanisms involved in this phenomenon.

Clementine:

So first Dr. Serhan, give us a bit of background on the relationship between nutrition and inflammation...

 

Serhan-1: “I think it’s been known for a very long time that inflammation, to be able to run properly, needs ideal nutrition. And our studies look specifically at the innate immune response and the early mechanisms involved in resolution of inflammation. And what we found is that there are specific resolution signals, chemical signals that are made from nutrition, from essential fatty acids and particularly the omega-3 fatty acids.”

 

Clementine:

Which omega-3 fatty acids for instance? Where do you find them?

 

Serhan-2: “In the major marine oils, the major components are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). These two essential fatty acids have been known for a long time to have an impact on inflammation and on inflammation-associated diseases. But the mechanisms were not clear.”

 

Clementine:

Ok but recently, if I’m right, you discovered some of the signals they induce and how they influence inflammation, right?

 

Serhan-3: “Yes, so, in our work, we identified that DHA and EPA are precursors to very potent bioactive mediators we call resolvins, protectins and mericins. These are the little robots that mechanically maneuver cell trafficking and actually stimulate resolution and clearance. So they are the instructive signals for cells to clear from the inflammatory site.”

 

Clementine:

OK and so... How can they be helpful during chronic inflammation…

 

Serhan-4: “We believe that chronic inflammation can be viewed as a failure for resolution because you have to remember that acute inflammation is protective, and this is the most vital response of the body to invasion or to tissue injury. But when that process doesn’t resolve normally, we think it leads to chronic inflammation. And so, the thought is that, at least in animal models of inflammatory diseases, we can add back the resolvins and protectins to stimulate resolution. They are actually agonists to stimulate the clearance and even the tissue regeneration that needs to occur following an inflammatory insult or injury.”

  

Clementine:

Ok and do you only have studies in animals?

 

Serhan-5: “These studies now are all in animal models, but we have some ongoing clinical trials with specific molecules that are at least at phase III human clinical trial for resolving inflammation. And these are proof-of-concept studies in humans. So I think there’s a possibility of thinking about nutrition to enhance the production of pro-resolving mediators. Our hope is that they will be useful. This is a new approach in thinking about treating inflammation. Most approaches that use clinically now, use either receptor antagonists to pro-inflammatory molecules or inhibitors along various pro-inflammatory pathways. And we think this approach can be complimentary with stimulating endogenous resolution mechanisms.”

 

Clementine:

And can we find enough of these fatty acids in food, or do we have use supplements?

 

Serhan-6: “Well, in the United States, most of the diets are, what nutritionists told me, very deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. So in those cases, clinical trials will need to be done to give evidence for the correct amount of supplementation that’s needed, to actually increase these resolution pathways. But I think those studies are now warranted because we know these molecular mechanisms now that can be tested in a variety of diseases, for example: we have looked in some human diseases, in asthma, which is now thought to have an inflammatory component, and in rheumatoid arthritis in the synovial fluids of the joints, we find the levels of the pro-resolving mediators very very low. And so, the idea is that they represent truly failed resolution mechanisms, and the big question now would be: “can we treat those and bring them back to homeostasis, bring them back to normality.”

 

Clementine:

Ok so… What’s your take home message?

 

Serhan-7: “That we should strive to have better evidence for mechanisms in biomarkers in thinking about functional foods, and specifically about appropriate nutrition. And personalized medicine will be very important in this area and probably in nutrition it’s not a one size fits all and that nutrition can probably also be very much personalized by understanding individual metabolomics and how an individual behaves on challenge.”

 

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Clementine:

This show is over. By visiting the MD-FM website, you can check out the themes of the programs we will be offering you regularly.

See you soon on MD-FM.

 

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Best of Science in Nutrition 2013: Yogurt for a healthier diet (EB & IUNS 2013)

Best of Science in Nutrition 2013: Yogurt for a healthier diet (EB & IUNS 2013)
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