12 January - 20 June 2016

Diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can lead to a lower CHD risk, review finds

Findings from a review published in JAMA Internal Medicine have indicated that consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may lower the risk of death from heart attacks.

Findings from a review published in JAMA Internal Medicine have indicated that consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may lower the risk of death from heart attacks.  The study led Gobbo et al. reports that “the role of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for primary prevention of coronary heart disease remains controversial.” This is due to the fact that many previous studies and trials were not relevant for the effects of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on primary CHD prevention.  They further note that the effects on non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI) and total CHD are often not clear and many previous studies used self-reported dietary questionnaires.

Due to these issues researchers from around the world joined together to form the Fatty acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCE).  The team investigated how omega-3s affects heart health, and specifically focused on how omega-3 derived from seafood and plant-based α- linolenic acid influence the risk of death from heart attack or myocardial infarction.  The team pooled findings from studies that measured blood or tissue levels of omega-3 instead of using dietary questionnaires.  The study includes data from 19 studies from 16 countries including the US, UK, Italy, Norway and Australia, involving a total of 45,637 participants. The study reports that over the median 10 years of follow up, there were 7973 CHD events, 7157 non-fatal MI events and 2781 fatal CHD events. 

Gobbo et al. calculated the amount of omega-3 the participants had in their blood and examined seafood-based eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as well as plant-based α-linolenic acid (ALA) concentrations

Individually, higher blood concentrations of EPA, DPA and DHA were found to be associated with an approximately 9% lower risk of fatal CHD.  When combined, these three showed an 11% lower fatal CHD risk. However neither EPA, DPA nor DHA were significantly associated with MI events but higher DPA alone was associated with a 6% lower risk of total CHD. For the plant-based ALA, the review found a 9% lower risk of fatal CHD for higher concentrations, as for the seafood-derived ω-3 PUFAs, but that ALA was not generally associated with total CHD or MI event risk.

Gobbo et al. state that their findings were also consistent by age, sex, presence or absence of diabetes, and use of aspirin or cholesterol-lowering medications. However, they report that due to the large scale of the review, they were able to see some ethnicity effects. Compared to their Caucasian counterparts, African-Americans showed a significantly lower risk of non-fatal MI events for higher ALA blood concentrations. Similarly, the review found that Chinese participants had a significantly lower risk total CHD and nonfatal MI for higher concentrations of EPA and ALA.

In conclusion, Gobbo et al. reiterate that their review shows a moderately lower risk of fatal CHD with “habitual consumption of seafood and plant-based ω-3 PUFAs” and state that their investigation “provides the most comprehensive estimates to date of the associations between seafood and plant-based ω-3 PUFAs, assessed using biomarkers, and primary incidence of CHD in generally heathy, free-living populations around the world”.

RSSL has expertise in all aspects of fat analysis and fatty acid profiling, including the determination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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