The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular health are well known, however their use for reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) has been contentious up until now. A recent meta-analysis has found consuming omega-3 fatty acids from both seafood and plant based sources may reduce the incidence of fatal CHD by up to 10%.
This study incorporated 19 prospective and retrospective studies throughout 16 countries worldwide. It was unique as it measured blood biomarkers of seafood derived eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic (DPA), docosahexaenoic (DHA) and plant derived alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to ascertain the incidence of CHD.
Previous studies have focussed on self-reported consumption to derive their results rather than circulating and tissue biomarkers of omega-3 fatty acids as measured in this meta-analysis.
A total of 45,637 individuals without a previous history of cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as stroke or myocardial infarction, participated in this study; 62.8% were male and the median age was 59 years. Omega-3 biomarkers from blood samples measured included total plasma, phospholipids, cholesterol esters and adipose tissue.
Participants with higher omega-3 biomarkers for ALA, EPA, DHA and DPA were collectively associated with a lower risk of fatal CHD – a 10% reduced risk with DHA/DPA and a 9% reduced risk with EPA/ALA. Interestingly DPA was related to a 6% decreased risk for overall CHD while EPA, DHA and ALA were not. The researchers hypothesised this may be due to omega-3s possessing a more distinct mechanism when correlated to more serious CHD.
This recent research highlights the importance of not only seafood but also plant based omega-3 fatty acids in the prevention of CVD. It comes at a similar time to another novel meta-analysis which showed that omega-3 fatty acids administered prior to cardiac surgery reduced time in hospital by up to 2.4 days. This was thought to be linked to the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Del Gobbo LC, Imamura F, Aslibekyan S et al. ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid biomarkers and coronary heart disease: pooling project of 19 cohort studies. JAMA Intern Med 2016; Epub ahead of print. [Abstract]
- Langlois PL, Hardy G, Manzanares W. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in cardiac surgery patients: An updated systematic review and meta- analysis. Clin Nutr 2016; Epub ahead of print. [Abstract]