Tuesday 16 February 2021

Getting Enough Omega-3s May Help Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

 Eating a well-rounded diet means mixing up your source of protein, which comes with many health benefits. But how often do you add fish into your menu rotation? Aside from being full of healthy fats, vitamin B, and potassium, here’s another reason to add it to your diet—it may help reduce inflammation in the body and lower your risk of heart disease.

In a recent study published in Atherosclerosis, researchers looked at eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and shellfish. Both EPA and DHA have previously been found to lower the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation.

This is the first study to compare the effect of DHA and EPA on the ability of white blood cells to turn off inflammation and promote healing, Stefania Lamon-Fava, M.D., Ph.D., scientist on the Cardiovascular Nutrition Team at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, told Runner’s World.

During the 34-week trial, a small group of people first consumed 3 grams of sunflower oil daily (which doesn’t contain omega-3s) for a baseline comparison. Then participants were given fish oil supplements either containing EPA or DHA twice a day, which they took for 10 weeks, with a 10-week period between where they didn’t take a supplement. The EPA and DHA supplements were prepared by a company that specializes in the preparation of fish oil, using sardines from fish farms off the Pacific coast.

Results showed that those taking supplements that contained omega-3s saw lower inflammation, but with slightly different results.

Both EPA and DHA reduce the production of pro-inflammatory proteins by circulating white blood cells, with DHA being more effective in that regard than EPA. However, EPA, but not DHA, was found to activate proteins and cells that are involved in the healing process. Therefore, the balance of anti-inflammation and healing is better achieved with EPA than DHA, Lamon-Fava said.

Currently, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest two fish meals (4 ounces per serving) per week. However, this study was conducted with doses higher than what can be achieved by two fish meals per week, so in order to see results, supplementation may be needed, Lamon-Fava said.

“Inflammation is the root cause of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease,” Lamon-Fava said. By reducing inflammation, in this case via the omega-3s in fish oil supplements, the progression of cardiovascular disease can be slowed down and, in some cases, reversed.

Bottom line: There is no set recommendation for the amount of EPA or DHA you should have in a day, according to the National Institute of Health, but it is recommended males consume 1.6 grams and females 1.1 grams of omega-3s daily. While you can get these benefits if your diet meets the weekly fish intake recommendations set by the AHA, many runners may find their diet lacking. So, you may want to consider talking to your doctor about supplementing your omega-3 intake with fish oil to boost your heart health.

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