I am participating in one of my first nutrition graduate’s research project, and I have already messed up the protocol. I ate some dried cranberries I got from Trader Joes, and I will tell you later why that was a “no no.” The student’s research question looks at the power of omega-3 fatty acids (found in foods such as fish and flax) and their ability or lack of ability to reduce inflammation after lifting weights. Scientists first discovered the benefits of omega-3s after studying Eskimos in Scandinavia, Greenland who had low rates of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions even though they were eating a diet high in fat. The researchers guessed that the type of fat, fish oils, might be the protector. Since then, many studies have verified the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, and their ability to protect the heart by preventing irregular heart beats, reduce plaque in arteries and decrease blood clots, triglycerides, blood pressure and inflammation. Therefore my graduate student’s interest lied within the potential of omega-3s to reduce inflammation in the exercised muscle. The procedures of the study (in a nutshell) include: 1) eat a omega-3 free diet for a week, which is called the “wash-out period” – this is the step I am currently in 2) create inflammation by doing bicep curls 3) measure the inflammation from the curls 4) eat a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (by taking omega-3 supplements) 5) create inflammation again with the bicep curls 6) see if the inflammation was less after taking the omega-3 fatty acids than it was on a low or “no” omega-3 fatty acid diet Of course the night before I started the study, I made a huge pot of seafood chowder, and found out Monday I couldn’t eat any of it due to my wash-out period (should have read the protocol first). Although I was very careful not to eat any fish this week, I messed it up by eating some dried cranberries on my breakfast cereal this morning. The cranberries from Trader Joes had been enriched with 360 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. Luckily, I didn’t eat very many, so I am not kicked out. Next Monday, I get to re-create the bicep soreness and start my supplements. I have never taken fish oil supplements, but I have heard some of the side effects include burping and fish breath. Maybe that is why I choose to eat real fish to get the healthy fats in my diet. I’ll let you know how it goes, and whether I can give you one more good reason to eat more fish!
Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.