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Fighting inflammation with over the counter drugs



Aspirin is just one over the counter drug long recognized for its numerous health benefits.

Aspirin is just one over the counter drug long recognized for its numerous health benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that aspirin taken regularly can help to prevent and control existing heart disease. And most people know that aspirin plays a role in fighting inflammation, but they might not realize how effective a few tablets can be - especially when combined with the omega-3 fatty acids naturally found in certain foods. However, a new study appearing in the journal Chemistry & Biology is getting the news out there.

According to researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical school, we're much closer to understanding how these two disparate elements - low-dose aspirin and omega-3 fatty acids - reduce inflammation. It turns out that aspirin causes the body to produce tiny molecules known as resolvins. These molecules then shut down inflammation in the body - including inflammatory lung disease, arthritis and heart disease, explaining why aspirin is so important for those with pulmonary, immunity and cardiovascular risks. And from where does the body produce these resolvins? Researchers say it's the omega-3 fatty acids we get from foods like flax seeds and salmon. The team was particularly interested in a type of resolvin deemed D3, which acted longer in fighting inflammation. According to the study, the aspirin itself triggered production of this preferred resolvin through a different pathway.

"Aspirin is able to modify an inflammatory enzyme to stop forming molecules that propagate inflammation and instead produce molecules from omega-3 fatty acids, like resolvin D3, that help inflammation to end," said Nicos Petasis, Ph.D. of the University of Southern California, and one of the study's co-authors.

The researchers hope that armed with this new information about resolvin D3, investigations can begin into the variety of inflammation-related diseases that could be more effectively treated with the compound.

The importance of omega-3s
While the availability of common OTC drugs like aspirin makes this fantastic news for the well-being of people everywhere, it's important to note that the efficacy of these resolvins is dependent on there being stores of omega-3 fatty acids in the body. This is one more reason many dieticians and doctors recommend fish as an excellent source of protein and nutrients. Including flax supplements or the seeds themselves in a regular diet may also be a good idea, specifically for those already taking low-dose aspirin to help combat heart disease.

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