I was asked to speak this past weekend at a one-day nutrition conference at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. While I spoke about nutrition periodization for athletes, the main focus was centered on inflammation so I knew I was in for an educational treat since I have really emphasized the inflammatory response mechanism with my athletes.
Some quick (non-scientific) and brief background about inflammation. From a cardiovascular standpoint, it is thought that the inflammatory process begins the endothelial cell wall damage that can eventually lead to blockages in the arteries. There is quite a bit of crossover with this concept and athletic performance. When you fewthink of the endothelial lining of the arteries, the less area there is (in case of inflammation) the less blood flow is delivered to and from muscles and organs. This could hamper the body’s ability to receive oxygen and nutrient rich blood before, during and after exercise and waste products away from the muscles. Inflammation is not merely a topic of heart health any longer.
In the past few years, I have been following this aspect of cardiovascular health and have applied it to the athletic population. My goal has been to find foods that could decrease the inflammatory response since any type of excessive exercise can produce this unfavorable response.
Fast forward to the conference where I heard a great talk by a surgeon who just happened to have done his PhD in nutrition 25 years ago. He was a very engaging speaker and the data he provided, while mostly targeted to critical care patients, supported the benefits of omega-3 fish oil supplementation. There have not been any studies in athletic individuals to my knowledge yet but cardiovascular health affects athletic performance because of the heart being central to oxygen delivery to the working muscles. Therefore, this further validates the use of omega-3 supplementation in athletes.
Which athletes you ask? Is it for me and how much? Well, I would argue that any athlete (ie-person who engages in exercise) would benefit from this since the inflammatory response can also be initiated by stressors and other foods. Yes, foods can have a pro-inflammatory response. While there is not a comprehensive, research supported list, there is great speculation about saturated fats, some allergen producing foods, and certain spices that contribute to this inflammation.
Stay tuned for future blogs about this topic as I look more into the research, especially on a fairly new “diet” appropriately termed the anti-inflammation diet. Until then, I would highly recommend thinking about taking an omega-3 supplement that contains EPA and DHA for a total of at least 1-2 grams for health and more if you are extremely active.