The Relationship Between Cardiovascular Disease and Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids. Over 50 million Americans have cardiovascular problems, and most other Western countries face high and increasing rates of cardiovascular disease. It is the number 1 cause of death and disability in the United States and most European countries. By the time that heart problems are detected, the underlying cause (atherosclerosis) is usually quite advanced, having progressed for decades. There is therefore increased emphasis on preventing atherosclerosis by modifying risk factors, such as healthy eating, exercise and avoidance of smoking.
Attempts to prevent cardiovascular disease take the form of modifying risk factors. For example, eating oily fish at least twice a week may help reduce the risk of sudden death and arrhythmias. Studies of individual heart cells showed that the fatty acids blocked excessive sodium and calcium currents in the heart, which could otherwise cause dangerous, unpredictable changes in its rhythm.
Recent studies have cast doubt over the effectiveness of essential fatty acids, prompting further study and investigation…
The Debate Is Over – Omega-3s Are A Solid Preventative Of Cardiovascular Disease
The recent debate surrounding the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids on cardiovascular disease (CVD) can be put to rest. A recent review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reinforces past evidence which has linked Omega-3s from oily fish and supplements to the reduction of CVD and risk of sudden death. According to an independent editorial by Richard Dickelbaum and Sharon Akabas from Columbia University, the new review takes “a large step forward in helping resolve the controversies related to the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on CVD outcomes.” One of the problems with reviewing and pooling previous studies comes from the fact that many of the studies are not directly comparable, with long- and short-term trials being grouped together.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a wide range of health benefits, including CVD prevention, good baby development during pregnancy, joint health, behavior and mood, in addition to certain ulcers. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids classified as essential because they cannot be synthesized in the body; they must be obtained from food. Important omega-3 fatty acids in human nutrition are: a-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The following additions will supply your body with an abundant supply of essential fatty acids:
- Fish and shellfish
- Flaxseed (linseed)
- Soya oil
- Canola oil
- Hemp oil
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
- Leafy vegetables and walnuts
Those who follow a Mediterranean-style diet tend to have higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. Similar to those who follow a Mediterranean diet, Inuit Eskimos, who consume high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish, also tend to have increased HDL cholesterol and decreased triglycerides (fatty material that circulates in the blood). In addition, fish oil supplements containing EPA and DHA have been shown to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. Finally, walnuts (rich in ALA) have been shown to lower total cholesterol and triglycerides in people with high cholesterol.