Omega-3 Fatty Acids Reduce Heart Health Risks in Adults of All Ages

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Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), namely DHA and EPA found in fatty fish, are associated with lower risk of heart failure mortality in adults with chronic heart failure or who have experienced a heart attack. These fatty acids may also benefit young adults at risk of cardiovascular disease due to impaired fetal growth and low birth weight. These findings and more are summarized in the April 2013 PUFA Newsletter.

A study of 1,203 US adults with chronic heart failure reported that higher levels of EPA were associated with a lower risk of mortality. Those who ate fish three or more times per week or who took omega-3 supplements (about 1 gram per day) had significantly higher levels of EPA and a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared with those having the lowest EPA levels.

"In 2008, about 5.7 million Americans experienced heart failure, a leading cause of hospitalization," says PUFA Newsletter Editor Joyce Nettleton, D.Sc. "Increasing omega-3 intake might be a simple way to prolong life."

EPA and DHA might also reduce the risk of developing this condition following a heart attack, according to a study of 712 adults in Japan. Those with the highest levels of EPA and DHA in their blood survived significantly longer without developing heart failure compared to patients with the lowest third of these fatty acids.

"Higher levels of EPA and DHA may be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart failure, hospitalization for heart failure and death from any cause in people who have had a heart attack," Nettleton notes.

Moreover, omega-3 PUFAs may benefit young people at risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood due to impaired fetal growth or low birth weight. A study of 1,573 young adults in Finland who had impaired fetal growth and thereby, increased carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) – a risk factor for heart disease – showed that those with higher intakes of omega-3s over six years had significantly lower cIMT values compared to those with lower intakes of omega-3 PUFAs.

"This suggests that childhood is not too soon to increase the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood," Nettleton concludes.  

To read and subscribe to the complimentary PUFA Newsletter, go to fatsoflife.com/subscribe/.