Dear Dr. Roach: I have a question about the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, either from eating fish or from supplements such as fish oil. It appears that many American diets are omega-3 deficient. One possible reason is that most American cattle are fed mostly corn rather than grass, resulting in low-omega-3 meat. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain health. Specifically, I wonder if there could be a link between these nutritionally low omega-3 levels and our dementia and Alzheimer’s epidemic.
Dear AJS: Grass-fed beef contains more omega-3 oils than grain-fed beef. However, even with grass-fed beef, the amount is still relatively small compared to other sources. A standard serving of grass-fed beef fillet contains about 65 mg of omega-3 fats, about 50% more than grain-fed ones. There is no “official” recommended intake for omega-3 fatty acids, but the Institute of Medicine found that healthy adults eat 1,100 (women) and 1,600 (men) per day.
Grass-fed beef isn’t really a good source to get there. It would take 4.5 pounds of grass-fed beef daily to reach the men’s goal – not a healthy choice. A single serving of salmon is more than 1,800 mg. More importantly, although the data remains mixed, most studies show that switching from red meat to plant-based and fish-based diets results in a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
Population studies have shown that a high dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids is linked to a reduced risk of dementia, as well as a reduction in high blood pressure and heart disease. However, clinical studies with omega-3 dietary supplements for the treatment or prevention of dementia such as Alzheimer’s have shown little or no benefit.
Dear Dr. Roach: I am a healthy 92 year old woman. I eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, and seafood. My doctor said a 20 year old would be jealous of my blood counts. I work out four days a week with slow jogging, stretching, and weight lifting. My problem is that my blood pressure is usually 135/70, sometimes a little higher or lower. I’m afraid it’s too high, but my doctor is happy with that number. What is your opinion?
Dear RY: A result of 135/70 in a healthy person with no other risk factors is usually not an indication for drug treatment. However, being 92 years of age is at risk for heart disease, and it is a good idea to reduce the risk wherever you can.
I agree with your doctor that your blood pressure doesn’t need treatment beyond your healthy lifestyle, but your desires are important. If you really wanted to treat it I would consider an extremely low dose of one of the safest blood pressure medications out there. The benefits of medication would be small.
Readers can email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.