Dinner with Jorn

2/1/2008

By John R. Carlson, President

At a recent convention, I had the honor to have an enjoyable dinner with Dr. Jorn Dyerberg.

Now, I realize that a lot of people may not recognize his name and say "Who?" But within the scientific community and most assuredly in the omega-3 fatty acid coronary relationship field he is one of the most recognized names, having pioneered omega-3 research in the early 1970's.

During our dinner conversation, Dr. Dyerberg shared with me how he became involved in fish oil. He stated that an article appeared in a Danish newspaper in 1968, questioning the strange fact that Greenland's Inuits (Eskimos) eat what is described as one of the fattiest diets in the world - yet they have a very low incidence of coronary heart disease. He questioned, "Why?"

He and his fellow researcher, Dr. Hans Olaf Bang were intrigued by this contradiction. Since Greenland is a land owned by Denmark, they questioned if unraveling the mystery could directly benefit Denmark and other countries, especially countries with high cardiovascular death rates.

Several years after the appearance of this article, the Greenland Inuit community was confronted with an outbreak of Chicken Pox. The Danish government sent Dr. Bang and Dr. Dyerberg to Greenland with medical supplies to fight the Chicken Pox outbreak. The doctors thought this would be a good opportunity to investigate the report in the Danish newspaper. So, while living in very meager quarters, houses built of piled stones - no concrete - they took blood samples of most of the inhabitants and found that they had favorable blood lipid levels, but they still couldn't answer why they had lower heart disease rates.

After their medical duties were finished, they returned to Denmark. With their studies of the Greenland Inuit as a basis, Dr. Dyerberg, Dr. Bang, and Dr. Nielsen published their initial findings in The British Medical Journal Lancet in 1971 under the title "Plasma Lipid and Lipoprotein Pattern in Greenland West Coast Eskimos."

They continued their research using an old gas chromatograph Dr. Bang owned, which they used to analyze the breakdown of the fats in 130 samples of Inuit's blood. This work took a while to complete. But, once they were able to review the fat peaks on graphs, they noticed 2 peaks they could not identify at the time. Dr. Dyerberg had a trip scheduled to the U.S. on another matter and he brought several of his graphs along. He was aware of an American researcher who specialized in lipids. When he called him, the researcher told him to bring the graphs over and he would take a look at them. Dr. Dyerberg visited him, showed him the graphs and was told by the expert that these peaks were Eicosapentaenoic and Docosahexaenoic acids (commonly calleded EPA and DHA now). Dr. Dyerberg had no recollection of hearing of those two fatty acids before.

This discovery led them to publish another paper in 1975 that appeared in the American Jounral of Clinical Nutrition where they first mentioned EPA and DHA and commented on the difference between the levels of long chain fatty acids in the Inuit and the Danish peoples. Dr. Dyerberg and Dr. Bang published 3 more studies on their research by 1980.

Their early studies on the health benefits of omega-3 fish oils and the relationship between the EPA and DHA fatty acids and a low incident of coronary heart disease opened a new field of research. Their early work was an inspiration to many scientists and has led to over 60,000 new studies on omega-3 benefits since 1980.

Well, as Paul Harvey always closes: "Now you know the rest of the story" about Dr. Jorn Dyerberg, an influential pioneer in omega-3 research. It was an honor to have dinner with Jorn Dyerberg, M.D. chief Physician and Head of Aalborg Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark.

Based on his work and others, Carlson Laboratories became the first firm to market Salmon Oil soft gels in the Spring of 1981. This was followed by our best-selling Super Omega-3 product in 1986.

In 1982, we began to import Cod Liver Oil from a firm who has specialized in Cod Liver Oil liquid for 150 years. Fortunately, the palatability is more pleasant than 150 years ago.

Seeking a higher EPA/DHA fish oil liquid in 2002, we added a special Norwegian formulated oil (the Very Finest Fish Oil) to add to our product line.

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