Fish Oil - Cardiovascular Benefits

Fish oil could have one of the most talked-about health benefits of all supplements: reduction of the risk of heart disease and associated conditions, such as hypertension and stroke. Fish oil provides a nutrient known as omega-3 fatty acid, and can help to balance what's become unbalanced in the typical modern diet: too much omega-6 fatty acids (such as from animal products) compared to omega-3. In short, we need more omega-3 in our diet, and perhaps less omega-6. However, does the evidence actually prove a connection? Some recent studies seem to show a contradiction, while others prove a definite connection between hypertension and omega-3. In this article you'll learn what the research shows and the possible conclusions to take from it.

There is no doubt that fish oil lowers the "bad" fats, triglycerides, as well as thins the blood. In fact it is generally recommended that you stay away from fish oil if taking a blood thinning medication like coumadin. These effects would seem to lead you to the conclusion that fish oil is great for cardiovascular disease, but one older study does not support this.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology followed over 14,000 men over the course of several years, and kept detailed records of their diets. Of the ones that had heart attacks during the study, no large difference in omega-3 levels were found in their blood. But hold that thought...

A more recent study, in 2000, followed over 1,800 men and concluded that those who had the highest levels of DHA, one of the two omega-3 acids found in fish oil, had a 67% less chance of an acute coronary event. The study also pointed out that the consumption of mercury found in some fish may wipe out any positive effects of the omega-3 acid. So there may be some good effects after all from fish oil, especially when a large amount of DHA is consumed along with little mercury. In addition, there is evidence that omega-3 can cut down on the rate of high blood pressure, or hypertension.

In a 1999 study, diabetics were studied and found to have a significantly reduction in hypertension when consuming omega-3. And in 2002, a German paper reported on the proper nutrition for hypertension. One of the included nutrients? Fish oil.

Fish oil, and in particular the DHA acid prevalent in it, does seem to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Mercury should be avoided, which can be found in a diet high in actual fish; many fish oil supplements do not contain mercury. Aside from the decreased rate of heart disease, fish oil will also lower your blood pressure.

References

Circulation. 2000;102:2677
http://circ.ahajournals.org

J Am Coll Cardiol, 1995; 25:387-394
http://content.onlinejacc.org

MMW Fortschr Med. 2002 Jan 24;144(3-4):34-6
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov