Omega 3: The New Way for Cardiovascular Prevention

The results of a research consortium published on June 27, 2016 in an American journal shows that the consumption of Omega 3 acids is directly linked to a 10% reduction in the risk of dying from heart attack (1).

As early as the 1970s, two Danish researchers, Hans Olaf Bang and Jorn Dyerberg, were intrigued by the very low rate of coronary artery disease among Inuits (indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions), given the very fatty nature of their diet. They visit a small village 600 km north of the Arctic Circle and compare the plasma lipids of 130 Inuits with those of Danes and Eskimos living in Denmark. They found that Inuits had lower plasma concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoproteins than Danes, and a higher proportion of long-chain fatty acids(2).

They concluded that Inuits had very few cardiovascular diseases because they ate a lot of marine fats rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

There are also other peoples, heavy consumers of fish, such as the inhabitants of the Okinawa archipelago, who hold a longevity record and for whom a low incidence of cardiovascular diseases has also been found (3).

These observations have been highly controversial in recent years, but this vast new research study demonstrates, and provides the most accurate and comprehensive picture to date, of the preventive effect of Omega 3s against cardiovascular disease.

 

The role of Omega 3 in the prevention of cardiovascular risk :

The most important Omega 3 are (French Agency for food safety Study (4)):

  • alpha-linolenic acid or ALA
  • eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA
  • docosahexaenoic acid or DHA.

These fatty acids called essential, are not synthesized by the body and should be provided by food.

Although their mode of action remains largely unexplained, researchers assume that Omega 3 (DHA and EPA) modify cell membranes.

Thus, the higher their presence, the more fluid the membrane would be and the exchanges(5) improved thus facilitating the propagation of chemical messengers such as dopamine or serotonin. In the myocardium, a dietary intake of DHA induces structural changes that affect membrane proteins with numerous functional consequences that begin to be taken into account in cardiology.

These very particular fatty acids, whose virtues seem immense, are also recognized as necessary for the development and the functioning of the retina and the nervous system.

 

Omega 3 reduces the risk of heart attack and arrhythmia:

Heart Attack is the most acute manifestation of ischemia (poor oxygenation of heart tissue). In a study conducted on rodents, to whom it was administered Omega 3 supplements, it was possible to note a decrease in the consumption of oxygen necessary for the production of ATP and a better efficiency of its use. In normal situations, this has little impact, but in ischemic situations, due to the lack of oxygen supply, this property of Omega 3 could be a determining element in the protection of the myocardium.

Ischemia can also cause heart rhythm disorders leading to arrhythmia. A sufficient and direct supply of DHA can show antiarrhythmic properties. In this case, it is the adrenergic system that comes into play, transmitting messages to the heart about the rhythm and contraction to adopt. The presence of DHA in the adrenergic receptor membranes improves this communication and helps regulate the heart rate.

In 2013, a meta-analysis (collection of 11 studies) published in the scientific journal Atherosclerosis Supplements showed that the risk of dying of a heart attack or of dying suddenly decreased by 33% among people taking Omega 3 supplements compared to placebo (5). The risk of heart attack is reduced by 25%, and the risk of death from any cause is reduced by 11%.

It should also be noted that after a myocardial infarction, supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids such as those found in fish oils prolongs the survival of patients by decreasing serum triglyceride levels (6).

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

SOURCES
[1] ω-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Biomarkers and Coronary Heart Disease
Pooling Project of 19 Cohort Studies
Liana C. Del Gobbo, PhD1; Fumiaki Imamura, PhD2; Stella Aslibekyan, PhD3; et al Matti Marklund, PhD4; Jyrki K. Virtanen, PhD5; Maria Wennberg, PhD6; Mohammad Y. Yakoob, PhD1; Stephanie E. Chiuve, ScD7,8; Luicito dela Cruz, PhD9; Alexis C. Frazier-Wood, PhD10; Amanda M. Fretts, MPH, PhD11; Eliseo Guallar, PhD12; Chisa Matsumoto, PhD, MD13,14; Kiesha Prem, MSc15; Tosh Tanaka, PhD16; Jason H. Y. Wu, PhD17; Xia Zhou, PhD18; Catherine Helmer, MD, PhD19,20; Erik Ingelsson, MD, PhD1,21; Jian-Min Yuan, MD, PhD22,23; Pascale Barberger-Gateau, PhD19,20; Hannia Campos, PhD24; Paulo H. M. Chaves, MD, PhD25; Luc Djoussé, MD, ScD14; Graham G. Giles, PhD9; Jose Gómez-Aracena, PhD26; Allison M. Hodge, PhD9; Frank B. Hu, PhD, MD, MPH8,24,27; Jan-Håkan Jansson, MD, PhD6; Ingegerd Johansson, PhD28; Kay-Tee Khaw, PhD, MD29; Woon-Puay Koh, PhD15,30; Rozenn N. Lemaitre, PhD, MPH31; Lars Lind, PhD21; Robert N. Luben, PhD29; Eric B. Rimm, ScD8,24,27; Ulf Risérus, PhD, MD4; Cecilia Samieri, PhD19,20; Paul W. Franks, PhD6,24,32; David S. Siscovick, MPH, MD33; Meir Stampfer, DrPH, MD8,24,27; Lyn M. Steffen, PhD, MPH18; Brian T. Steffen, PhD18; Michael Y. Tsai, PhD34; Rob M. van Dam, PhD15,24,35; Sari Voutilainen, PhD5; Walter C. Willett, DrPH, MD8,24,27; Mark Woodward, PhD12,17,36; Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH37; for the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) Fatty Acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCe)
JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(8):1155-1166. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.2925
[2] Bang HO, Dyerberg J, Hjøorne N.The composition of food consumed by Greenland Eskimos. Acta Med Scand. 1976;200(1-2):69-73.
[3] D. Craig Willcox, PhD, Bradley J. Willcox, MD, Hidemi Todoriki, PhD, Makoto Suzuki, MD, PhD. The Okinawan Diet: Health Implications of a Low-Calorie, Nutrient-Dense, Antioxidant-Rich Dietary Pattern Low in Glycemic Load. Publiée en 2001 par le Pacific Asian Jounal of Clinical Nutrition.
[4] Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments. Acides gras de la famille Omega 3 et système cardiovasculaire : intérêt nutritionnel et allégations. Agence française de sécurité sanitaire des aliments. Date de remise : Juin 2003
[5] P. Barberger-Gateau and al. Dietary patterns and risk of dementia. Neurology. November 13, 2007. P.1921-1930 –
[6] Vivencio Barrios, Carlos Escobar, Arrigo Francesco Giuseppe Cicero, David Burke, Peter Fasching, Maciej Banach, Eric Bruckert. A nutraceutical approach (Armolipid Plus) to reduce total and LDL cholesterol in individuals with mild to moderate dyslipidemia : Review of the clinical evidence.

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