If you want to prevent learning disabilities in your children, feed them cod liver oil.
- David Horrobin,
For those who read my fishy cure column last Fall, and want to know if taking fish oil capsules really did lower my bodys cholesterol and triglycerides, the answer is, yes. For the first time since I learned my numbers were too high a dozen years ago, both substances are within normal range.
But success did not come overnight.
To recap: During that frightful first blood test all those years ago, my cholesterol level was 320, and my triglycerides were so high the lab didnt complete the test.
Dont worry, my first doctor said. You dont have any other risk factors, like heart disease or diabetes and youre not obese, so I think we can control this problem by changing your diet. (Note: Plenty of medical professionals disagreed.)
The change meant a dozen trips to the nutrition clinic where I learned what I shouldnt eat and how to make the rest palatable. Red meat and anything fried or fat-laden had to go.
But I was already into low-fat foods anyway - in my opinion, I had always been borderline obese - so the new diet wasnt much of a change. However, by the time of my first, post-diagnosis check-up, the triglycerides were still very high, but my cholesterol had dropped 50 points.
Finally, after another five years of trial and error, and a couple of nutrition studies at the Medical College of Georgia, a new doctor prescribed the statin, Zocor, which lowered both numbers, but not enough.
OK, the doctor said, lets try doubling the dose. We did, which brought the cholesterol numbers down to normal, and lowered my triglycerides somewhat. The doctor was ecstatic, but I was miserable. I ached all over.
Oh, I forgot, he said. Muscle pain is a side-effect of this medication.
So out with the Zocor, and off I went to the endocrinologist for another opinion. Two surprises came next: my muscle pain subsided almost immediately, and my new medication turned out to be a food. All I had to do was take two fish oil capsules every day because, this doctor believed, Your problem isnt cholesterol, its triglycerides.
Three months later my triglycerides had dropped considerably, but my cholesterol numbers had gone back up.
My medical chart was beginning to look like a doctoral thesis.
Back to trial and error. First trial: Take one more fish oil capsule a day - one with each meal - and go back on the smaller (20 mg) dose of Zocor. Last week we did the numbers again, and learned my trials were over. All my numbers are normal. Better still, all my muscles are pain-free.
All this may be more than inquiring minds want to know. But for me the ending of the story goes back at least 50 years.
When the endocrinologist told me to add fish oil to my diet, I immediately remembered a familiar scene. There we were, my three brothers and I, ready for school except for one last thing: My father had to pour that dreaded daily dose of cod liver oil down our throats before we could go out the door. No gelatin capsule shield like Im taking now, just the horrid oil.
But we succumbed because Daddy said it was good for what ails you, and it would keep us from getting colds all winter.
You know, he was right. And after reading all I could find about the benefits of fish oil, I wonder if my fathers treatment kept me from getting rickets, arthritis, psoriasis, ear infections and dozens of other maladies this little blob of stuff is supposed to prevent, too.
Now, if it could only do something about my weight.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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