Omega-3 fatty acids – The heart healthy fat(s)
Most people have heard about the omega-3 fatty acids from fish, usually referred to as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In the past few years, there has been increased scientific and public interest in the role of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil supplements in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease (CVD). These omega-3 fatty acids were found to have both anti-anthrogenic (inhibition of new plaque development) and anti-thrombotic (blood-clotting) effects.
Studies on humans have indicated a favourable modifying effect of dietary fish oils on various risk factors for CVD independent of their lowering of blood cholesterol. Supplementing with omega-3 fish oil concentrates has demonstrated potential in reducing both the progression of cardiovascular disease and related mortality.
The beneficial effects of fish oil also include a reduction in sudden cardiac death, a decrease in mild hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and decreased risk of cardiac arrhythmia. It lowers plasma triglyceride levels, and reduces blood-clotting. Fish oil can also have a therapeutic role in the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia (elevated triglycerides). The effective doses of omega-3 fatty acids in these studies ranged from 3 to 5 g/day.
Although the level of DHA and EPA intake can be attained through fish consumption, the requisite amount of fish intake may be difficult to achieve and sustain over a long period of time. For those who do not eat fish, have limited access to a variety of fish, or have concerns about the contamination in fish, a fish oil supplement may be considered. If it is a double-strength fish oil, then up to two 1000mg fish oil capsules per day are necessary to obtain the therapeutic effect.
- Marguerite M. Engler, PhD, FAHA; Mary B. Engler, PhD, FAHA. (2006) Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Role in Cardiovascular Health and Disease. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing Vol. 21, No. 1, pp 17-24.
- Jehangir N Din, David E Newby, Andrew D Flapan. (2004) Omega 3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease—fishing for a natural treatment. BMJ VOLUME 328.