July 26, 2002 Eating fish benefits those who are at high risk for ischemic heart disease (IHD), and sudden cardiac deaths occur less frequently in those who habitually eat ocean fish, a major source of omega-3 fatty acids. In a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nestel et al. examined the role that omega-3 fatty acids play in improving systolic and pulse pressure and vascular resistance, effects that may reduce the risk of IHD and adverse cardiac events.
The research focused on the effects of two forms of omega-3 fatty acid--eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)--on systemic arterial compliance, a measure of the degree of large artery elasticity. Increased stiffness in the large arteries can lead to systolic hypertension and increased pulse pressure (the difference between diastolic and systolic pressure), both factors that may contribute to increased coronary risk. Thirty-eight middle-aged men and women with elevated plasma total cholesterol consumed an EPA supplement, a DHA supplement, or a placebo during a 7-week dietary intervention. In contrast to the placebo group who showed no change, systemic arterial compliance rose 36% in the EPA group and 27% in the DHA group, while there was a trend toward reduced systolic and pulse pressure. Both omega-3 fatty acid supplement groups experienced significant declines in plasma total triacylglycerol concentrations.
The present study adds another potential benefit of n-3 fatty acids to previously known benefits, such as the lowering of triacylglycerols, which appear to aid in the prevention of ischemic heart disease.
Nestel, Paul et al. The n-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid increase systemic arterial compliance in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:326-30.
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