On a global scale, cardiovascular disease and coronary occlusion cause more deaths than any other factor. However, according to a large meta-analysis from Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, USA, people who take fish oil have a lower risk of atherosclerosis and cardiac failure than those, who do not take the supplements. The study also revealed that high-dosed fish oil supplementation delivers more health benefits than the lower doses. Atherosclerosis develops gradually, and millions of people die every year because of this problem, which means that even minor changes such as taking supplements and eating a healthier diet, can improve quality of life and prevent many deaths. So, according to the new study, how much fish oil is needed in order to obtain the optimal cardiovascular effect?
Coronary occlusion is the leading cause of death on a global scale. The disease, also known as ischemic heart disease (ischemia = lack of oxygen), develops gradually. As time passes, there is an increased risk of chest pain during physical exercise (angina pectoris), coronary thrombosis, heart failure, and sudden death. Atherosclerosis is caused by sediments of calcium, oxidized LDL cholesterol, and fat on the inside of the coronary vessel walls, which make it increasingly difficult for blood to circulate. Also, blood platelets are likely to form clots. These changes are mainly observed in the coronary arteries, aorta, and in the arteries in the brain, kidneys, and legs. Stroke causes sudden neurological brain damage as a result of cerebral hemorrhage, blood clot, or ischemia.
Did you know that one in four Danes dies of cardiovascular disease?
This meta-analysis updates the therapeutic value of fish oil.
Over the past decades, numerous observational studies have shown a link between fish intake and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Still, randomized, controlled studies have shown contrasting results, causing experts to disagree on the benefits of taking fish oil supplements. The new meta-analysis increased the scientific basis by an astonishing 63 percent. Dr. Hu and his team of scientists analyzed 13 randomized studies with a total of 120,000 adults from all over the world. Their analysis encompassed, among others, the VITAL study, which is considered to be the largest-ever study of fish oil supplementation.
According to the results, participants who took fish oil supplements had lower risk of most cardiovascular diseases, including an eight percent reduced risk of heart disease and heart attack.
The researchers could also see that fish oil consumption in excess of 840 mg per day provided better results in the majority of randomized studies. Considering the fact that millions of people worldwide are affected by cardiovascular disease and early death due to heart failure, a simple intervention like fish oil, according to the scientists behind the new meta-analysis, could be an effective way of preventing hundreds of thousands of cases of cardiovascular disease and related mortalities.
Omega-3 fatty acids and their effect on the cardiovascular disease
Omega-3 fatty acids can save millions of lives
The new meta-analysis supports an earlier meta-analysis, which was carried out by an international group of scientists that gathered at Tufts University in Boston. Here, the scientists reviewed 19, large epidemiological studies that measured levels of different types of omega-3 fatty acids in blood or tissue. Afterwards, the many analyses were pooled in a single meta-analysis. The scientists found that increased intake of omega-3 tended to lower by around 10 percent the risk of fatal heart attacks.
Most earlier studies of lipids in the diet have only been based on the participants’ self-reported intake. However, in this study the scientists also looked at how biomarkers for various lipids and fatty acids in the blood are related to health, the development of cardiovascular disease, and early death.
Did you know that there is around 1 gram of omega-3 in a herring fillet and around 3-4 grams of omega-3 in a free-range salmon steak
Oily fish or fish oil supplements
The majority of people do not follow the official dietary guidelines in terms of fish intake, which suggest eating around 350 grams of fish weekly (mainly oily fish that has the highest content of omega-3 in the form of EPA and DHA). Another problem is that farmed fish normally do not contain an optimal amount of omega-3 fatty acids because they do not get natural fodder. It is therefore advisable to choose oily fish such as free-range salmon and herring from clean waters. Also, it is important to avoid consuming too high quantities of predatory fish like tuna because heavy metals like mercury tend to accumulate in their meat.
For people who dislike fish or just don’t eat enough of it, fish oil supplements are a good way of ensuring adequate omega-3 intake. Fish oil with omega-3 in the form of free fatty acids have better bioavailability. Always make sure to choose a supplement that is within government requirements in terms of peroxide value and environmental toxin content.
Other ways to prevent cardiovascular disease
Yang Hu et al. Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease: An Undated Meta-Analysis of 13 Randomized Controlled Trials Involving 127477 Participants. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2019
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Omega-3 fish oil supplements linked with lower cardiovascular disease risk. ScienceDaily. September 30. 2019
James Ives. People with peripheral artery disease have lower Omega-3 index, shows study. News Medical Life Science 2019
Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus. Consumption of omega-3s linked to lower risk of fatal heart disease. Science Daily 2016
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