Omega-3 supplements contain a combination of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Several studies show that only the presence of high doses of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Not all omega-3 fatty acids are unanimous for heart health
According to recent research, only a high amount of EPA in the blood will ensure good cardiovascular health, while a high dose of DHA appears to block the beneficial effects of EPA.
Hence, it stands to reason that the combined effects of EPA and DHA can negate any potential health benefits from EPA.
Let’s take a closer look at EPA.
The three types of omega-3 fatty acids are EPA, DHA, and (alpha-linoleic acid) ALA.
Bioavailable EPA and DHA are abundant in seafood, especially in the oily variety of fish like tuna, mackerel, or salmon.
While ALA is primarily found in vegetable sources such as chia seeds, walnut and flax seeds.
In our body we are able to convert a small amount of ALA into EPA or DHA.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), most people in the United States get enough ALA in their diet naturally, but the amount of EPA and DHA is usually unknown.
Several sources of evidence suggest that people who consume a good amount of seafood are less prone to cardiovascular symptoms.
There is also a prevalence of taking omega-3 supplements in capsule or tablet form. However, the health benefits of these supplements are not well documented.
Research has shown that a high dose of EPA in a person’s diet significantly reduces the likelihood of heart disease, including stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.
However, no such evidence was seen in the case of the combined consumption of EPA and DHA.
The effects of omega-3 levels in our blood
For the purpose of the study, data were collected from the INSPIRE registry of Intermountain Healthcare.
The data included 35,000 blood samples from 25,000 people and their medical details.
Random samples were selected from 987 patients who underwent a heart scan at Intermountain Healthcare between 1994 and 2012, and their plasma levels were analyzed to assess DHA and EPA levels.
The median age at which samples were taken was 61.5 years, and during health screening, 41% were obese and 42% had severe coronary artery disease.
During the next ten years, cardiovascular criticalities such as heart attack, stroke or heart failure were diagnosed in 31.5% of all participating patients, which could cause death in the patients.
It was observed that those who had high levels of EPA in their blood during the initial assessment were less likely to face such cardiovascular emergencies.
The risk of cardiovascular disease was much higher in people with a combination of DHA and EPA than in people with only EPA in their blood.
The results remained constant even after considering previous underlying diseases such as severe diseases of the coronary arteries or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart failure.
These results form the basis of the suggestion to consume foods high in omega-3s. However, the consumption of omega-3 in the form of artificial supplements is not recommended.
The best way for omega-3 consumption.
The data obtained from the INSPIRE registration survey was not discreet enough to determine whether the person was taking omega-3s in the form of supplements or through their diet.
The studies were carried out with omega-3 supplements that met clinical standards. Usual over-the-counter dietary supplements are unlikely to produce the desired beneficial effects for patients.