Omega-3 and Heart Disease Omega-3 Inflammation Study



  • A study recently published in Atherosclerosis was the first of its kind to compare the effects of two different types of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • The study found that both EPA and DHA reduced inflammation and thus could lower the risk of heart disease.
  • EPA has been found to be the better of the two to balance anti-inflammatory and healing in the body.

    Eating a balanced diet means mixing the source of protein, which has many health benefits. But how often do you add fish to your menu rotation? Aside from being full of healthy fats, B vitamins, and potassium, there’s one more reason to add it to your diet – it can help reduce inflammation in the body and lower your risk of heart disease.

    In a study recently 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 been previously found to lower the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation.

    This is the first study to compare the effects of DHA and EPA on the ability of white blood cells to turn off inflammation and promote healing. Dr. med. Stefania Lamon-Fava, scientist on the cardiovascular nutrition team at Jean Mayer The USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University told Runner’s World.

    A small group of people during the 34-week trial first consumed 3 grams of sunflower oil daily (which does not contain omega-3 fatty acids) for a baseline comparison. Participants then received fish oil supplements containing either EPA or DHA twice a day for 10 weeks, with a 10 week period between when they did not take the supplement. The EPA and DHA supplements are made by a company that specializes in making fish oil using sardines from fish farms off the Pacific coast.

    The results showed that those who took supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids had less inflammation, but with slightly different results.

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

    Currently, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the nutritional guidelines for Americans suggest two fish meals (4 ounces per serving) per week. However, this study was conducted at doses higher than what can be achieved with two fish meals per week. A supplement might be needed to see the results, Lamon-Fava said.

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

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    Bottom line: According to the National Institute of Health, there isn’t a set recommendation for the amount of EPA or DHA you should have in a day. However, it is recommended that men consume 1.6 grams and women 1.1 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily. While You Can Get These Benefits If your diet follows the weekly fish intake recommendations set out by the AHA, many runners can become malnourished. You may want to speak to your doctor about supplementing your omega-3 intake with fish oil to improve your heart health.

    Digital editor
    Jordan Smith is a writer and editor with over 5 years experience reporting health and fitness news and trends.

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