How Do Omega Fatty Acids Impact Heart Disease

Omega-3 PUFAs, such as linolenic acid and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) can have a favorable impact, lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, since omega-3 fatty acids have not been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels in a consistent manner in research studies, the cardioprotective effects must extend beyond that mechanism. For instance, omega-3 fatty acid intake is associated with:

  • decreased risk of arrhythmias that can lead to sudden cardiac death
  • decreased risk of blood clots (thrombosis) that can lead to heart attacks or stokes
  • lower serum triglyceride levels
  • slowing the growth of atherosclerosis process (plaque formation)
  • improving the function of blood vessel walls
  • decreasing inflammation

Thus the positive impact of omega-3 fatty acids extends well beyond simply reducing LDL and total cholesterol. It is more likely that much of the cardioprotective benefits of omega-3 fats is based on the formation of particular eicosanoid factors as discussed below. EPA and DHA are found in Atlantic and Pacific herring, Atlantic halibut and salmon, coho, albacore tuna, bluefish, lake trout, and pink and king salmons. It is probably a good idea to include these fish in a regular diet a couple of times a week. Linolenic acid, which can be converted to DHA and EPA is found in canola oil and soybean oil, and in even smaller amounts in corn oil, beef fat, and lard.

Your Heart and Nutrition

Your Heart and Nutrition

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