Nita Wong ‘21
The consumption of omega 3 fats is commonly believed to protect against heart disease by reducing blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Although the three main types of fatty acids that comprise Omega 3 fats are readily found in the foods we eat. For example, alphalinolenic acid (ALA) is found in many nuts and seeds and both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, and lake trout. These types of fatty acids are also widely distributed as over-the-counter supplements. A new study conducted at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia, however, suggests that there may be no correlation between consumption of omega 3 supplements and decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, or death.
Under the direction of lead author Dr. Lee Hooper, researchers from the Cochrane Heart Group analyzed the results of 79 randomized trials – all of which examined the effects of the consumption of additional omega 3 fat on cardiovascular health. The information compiled from these studies collected data from an overall total of 112,059 men and women, some of whom had pre-existing conditions, from North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Some participants were randomly selected to increase their omega 3 intake, while others were instructed to maintain their usual intake; a year or more later, researchers examined differences between the two groups.
The researchers found that an increased intake of omega 3 fats did not significantly decrease an individual’s risk of death from any cause nor his or her risk of death from cardiovascular conditions including coronary heart death, stroke, or heart irregularities. Any beneficial effect was extremely small; statistically, 143 persons would have to increase their omega 3 intake to prevent a single cardiovascular death.
- A. Abdelhamid, et. al., Omega-3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. The Cochrane Library (2018). doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD003177.pub3
- Image retrieved from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/yellow-health-medicine-wellness-33355/