Omega-3 and Heart Disease | Omega-3 inflammation study

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  • 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 may lower the risk of heart disease.
  • EPA has been found to be the better of the two for balancing inflammation and healing in the body.

    Eating a balanced diet means mixing up your source of protein, which has many health benefits. But how often do you add fish to your menu sequence? 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 previously been 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, Stefania Lamon-Fava, MD, Ph.D., scientist on the cardiovascular nutrition team at Jean Mayer Das USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University told Runner’s World.

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

    The results showed that those who took omega-3 fatty acid supplements saw 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 involved in the healing process. Therefore, the anti-inflammatory and healing balance is better achieved with EPA than with DHA, Lamon-Fava said.

    Currently, the American Heart Association (AHA) and nutritional guidelines for Americans recommend two meals of fish (4 ounces per serving) per week. However, this study was conducted at higher doses than can be achieved with two fish meals per week. A supplement may be needed to see 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 is no hard and fast recommendation for the amount of EPA or DHA you should consume per day, but it is recommended that men get 1.6 grams and women 1.1 grams of omega-3s daily Eating Fatty Acids Benefits If your diet follows the AHA’s weekly fish intake recommendations, many runners may be poorly nourished. So, you should consider speaking 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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