12 January - 20 June 2016

Study finds omega-3 consumption supports heart disease risk reduction

A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTS) and prospective cohort studies investigating the effect of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA+DHA) on Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) risk has concluded that EPA+DHA consumption or supplementation may be associated with reducing CHD risk, particularly amongst higher-risk populations.

A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTS) and prospective cohort studies investigating the effect of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA+DHA) on Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) risk has concluded that EPA+DHA consumption or supplementation may be associated with reducing CHD risk, particularly amongst higher-risk populations.

The study, by US researchers and funded in part by the Global Organisation for EPA and DHA Omeg-3s (GOED), has been recently published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Many health agencies currently recommend diets which include greater intakes of fish and/or EPA and DHA for improved heart health but previous studies have reported some mixed results regarding CHD risk and EPA+DHA consumption or supplementation. Therefore the authors of the current study wanted to perform comprehensive meta-analyses of RCTs to “estimate the effect of EPA+DHA on CHD” and of prospective cohort studies to “estimate the association between EPA+DHA intake and CHD risk” as well as investigating the effects of dose and of EPA+DHA on specific outcomes in those with elevated triglyceride or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels.

Alexander et al. performed comprehensive literature searches to identify RCT and prospective cohort studies, published between 1947 and 2015, for inclusion in their meta-analyses. They included studies that reported on one or more CHD outcomes from myocardial infarction (MI), angina, sudden cardiac death, coronary death and CHD incidence for cohort studies. Populations needed to be adults free of significant non-CHD related diseases. Eighteen RCTs and 16 prospective cohort studies were identified covering 93,000 and 732,000 subjects respectively.

Following meta and sub-group analysis, Alexander et al. found that the RCT data showed EPA+DHA provision was associated with a 6% risk reduction for any CHD event although this association was not statistically significant. Amongst those with triglyceride levels at 150mg/dL or more and LDL-C levels at 130mg/dL or more, statistically significant reductions in CHD events by 16% and 14% respectively were found. RCTs with EPA+DHA doses above 1g/day showed a stronger reduction (25%) compared to those RCTs with doses of less than 1g/day (7%) but Alexander et al. note that when including data with doses of less than 1g/day, no continuous dose-response effect was seen. For the meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies, Alexander et al. found statistically significant inverse associations between EPA+DHA intake and any CHD event with a risk reduction of 18%.  Fatal CHD event, coronary death and sudden cardiac death individually also showed statistically significant inverse associations.

In discussion, Alexander et al. suggest that their study is “the most comprehensive quantitative assessment of the relationship between EPA+DHA supplementation and intake and CHD risk to date”.  The study states previous studies have found that elevated triglyceride levels are associated with increased CHD risk and because 25% of US citizens over 25 years old are thought to have triglyceride levels above 150mg/dL, their finding that EPA-DHA provision reduced CHD risk for this group, but not for those with lower triglyceride levels, is of particular relevance for “the management of CHD risk in the general US population”. In conclusion, the study reiterates that its findings support the position that recommends EPA+DHA intake for “heart and overall health”.

RSSL's Lipids Laboratory, 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 telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

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