The level of fatty acids in our diet has a strong influence on the health of our arteries and of our heart. Over the last twenty years there have been many studies examining the role of omega 3 on the different “risk factors” which pose a threat to our cardiovascular health.

Global reduction in cardiovascular mortality

The Study REDUCE-IT shows that a high amount of omega 3 fatty acids reduce the risk of severe cardiovascular illness. The mean follow-up time was of five years, during which cardiovascular-related death, non-fatal myocardial infarction, non-fatal stroke, coronary revascularisation procedures were all reduced by 25% compared to the placebo test.

Reduction in stroke-related deaths

This is one of the very first things I learnt about omega fatty acids: those who consume more omega 3 don’t necessarily suffer less from strokes, but they are able to survive them better and there is also a lower rate of recurrence. 

In effect, consuming omega 3 reduces the cardiac cell’s excitability, and therefore also reduces atrial fibrillation. Simply put, atrial fibrillation is a series of disordered contractions in the myocardium (the heart’s muscle), which leads to a type of ‘short circuit’, often resulting in death. This is what a defibrillator attempts to get rid of.

Angina and coronary diseases

Those consuming seafood/fish at least or more than four times a week have a 22% reduced risk of coronary disease compared to those only consuming these once a week.

Coagulation balance

By acting on different prostaglandins, omega 3 fatty acids reduce platelet adhesion, both between themselves and on the blood vessel walls.

Controlling blood pressure

The composition of cell membranes lining the blood vessels has a very significant influence on blood pressure - the richer the membranes in omega 3, the more flexible they will be and the more blood pressure will remain low!

This is also effective as a preventative measure and for those with hypertension.

Triglyceride

Omega 3 fatty acids also allow for triglyceride levels to be reduced in those suffering from hypertriglyceridemia.

Inflammation

A higher amount of omega 3 also means a reduced likelihood of inflammation, and not only for the joints. It remains little known that the atheromatous plaque (which is responsible for blocking arteries) is in fact caused by inflammation. So, anything reducing inflammation can only be a good thing for our arteries!

How much do I need?

The beneficial effects can be seen with a daily dose of 250mg of long-chain fatty acids: EPA and ADH.

 

Fatty fish or dietary supplements?

Main dietary sources

In order to obtain the necessary amounts, about two to three portions of fatty fish would need to be consumed per week. This includes salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, tuna, swordfish..

However given our dietary habits and the risk of ocean pollution, this isn’t always straightforward.

Furthermore, a recent study has also shown that way in which the fish is prepared can greatly influence their effect on cardiovascular health:

- In order to retain as much omega 3 and its beneficial qualities, the fish must either be

raw or cooked at a low temperature - steamed or poached.

- Contrastingly, using a barbecue or frying the fish destroys the omega 3 fatty acids

and turn them into harmful byproducts.

 

Dietary supplements

Schizochytrium (a type of seaweed) oil capsules are another option, they are 100% vegan and vegetarian and can help to provide a regular supply of omega 3.

 

 

References

• D. Bhatt (États-Unis) - The primary results of the REDUCE-IT trial

• Seafood Long-Chain n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease. A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association

• STROKE Results from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study

 

General Mortality CV

• Balk EM, Adam GP, Langberg V, Halladay C, Chung M, Lin L, Robertson S, Yip A, Steele D, Smith BT, Lau J, Lichtenstein AH, Trikalinos TA. Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: an updated systematic review. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; August 2016.

• Siscovick DS, Barringer TA, Fretts AM, Wu JH, Lichtenstein AH, Costello RB, Kris- Etherton PM, Jacobson TA, Engler MB, Alger HM, Appel LJ, Mozaffarian D; on behalf of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee of the Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health; Council on Epidemiology and Prevention; Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; and Council on Clinical Cardiology. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (fish oil) supplementation and the prevention of clinical cardiovascular disease: a science advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135:e867–e884. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000482.

 

Death after stroke

• Hinkle LE Jr, Thaler HT. Clinical classification of cardiac deaths. Circulation. 1982;65:457–464.

• Albert CM, Chae CU, Grodstein F, Rose LM, Rexrode KM, Ruskin JN, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE. Prospective study of sudden cardiac death among women in the United States. Circulation. 2003;107:2096–2101. doi: 10.1161/01.CIR. 0000065223.21530.11.

• Siscovick DS, Raghunathan TE, King I, Weinmann S, Wicklund KG, Albright J, Bovbjerg V, Arbogast P, Smith H, Kushi LH. Dietary intake and cell membrane levels of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the risk of primary cardiac arrest. JAMA. 1995;274:1363–1367.

• Hara M, Sakata Y, Nakatani D, Suna S, Usami M, Matsumoto S, Hamasaki T, Doi Y, Nishino M, Sato H, Kitamura T, Nanto S, Hori M, Komuro I; Osaka Acute Coronary Insufficiency Study (OACIS) Investigators. Low levels of serum n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with worse heart failure-free survival in patients after acute myocardial infarction. Circ J. 2013;77:153–162.

 

Angina and coronary disease

• Erkkilä AT, Lehto S, Pyörälä K, Uusitupa MI. n-3 Fatty acids and 5-y risks of death and cardiovascular disease events in patients with coronary artery disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78:65–71

• de la Fuente RL, Naesgaard PA, Nilsen ST, Woie L, Aarsland T, Gundersen T, Nilsen DW. Omega-3 index and prognosis in acute coronary chest pain patients with a low dietary intake of omega-3. Scand Cardiovasc J. 2013;47:69–79.