Meta-analysis affirms association between EPA/DHA intake and lower heart disease risk

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The results of a meta-analysis appearing in the January 2017 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings adds yet more evidence to an association between greater intake of the omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. "To our knowledge, this is the most comprehensive quantitative assessment of the relationship between EPA+DHA supplementation and intake and coronary heart disease risk to date," authors Dominik D. Alexander, PhD, and colleagues announce.

Dr Alexander and his colleagues selected 18 randomized controlled trials involving 93,633 participants and 16 prospective cohort studies that included 732,061 subjects for the analysis. Among randomized trials, there was a 6% overall reduction in the risk of any coronary heart disease event, defined as fatal or nonfatal heart attack, sudden cardiac death and angina, among those who received omega 3 compared to those who did not receive the fatty acids. The reduction was significant among high risk participants. Those with high triglyceride levels who received omega 3 experienced a 16% reduction in coronary heart disease risk and subjects who had elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol had a 14% lower risk compared with participants who did not receive EPA and DHA.

When prospective cohort studies were analyzed, having a higher reported intake of EPA and DHA was associated with an 18% lower risk of a coronary heart disease event compared to those whose intake was lower. The association was strongest for sudden cardiac death, which was 47% lower in association with higher omega 3 consumption.

"What makes this paper unique is that it looked at the effects of EPA and DHA on coronary heart disease specifically, which is an important nuance considering coronary heart disease accounts for half of all cardiovascular deaths in the U.S.," noted Dr Alexander, who is Principal Epidemiologist at the EpidStat Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "The 6 percent reduced risk among randomized controlled trials, coupled with an 18 percent risk reduction in prospective cohort studies -- which tend to include more real-life dietary scenarios over longer periods -- tell a compelling story about the importance of EPA and DHA omega 3s for cardiovascular health."


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