Medical Article

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce heart attack

The new research finding of JMMA Internal Medicines, published recently says that, Omega-3 fatty acid rich foods may reduce the risk of heart attack. Heart attack occurs if a section of the heart fails to receive enough oxygen-rich blood. 

Healthy diet is the key solution to reduce the risk of heart attack, and according to studies omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids rich food should be included in diet for the benefit of healthy heart. But another group of scientists are opposing the findings pointing out that fish oil supplements, a major source of the fatty acids do not lower heart-related risks.

For blood clotting, digestion, muscle activity, cell division and growth body need omega-3s. The body gets it through the foods we eat. The fish like salmon, trout, tuna, sardines and anchovies are key source of omega-3s and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Leafy vegetables, walnuts and some vegetable oils are normally the source of omega-3 alphalinolenic acid (ALA).

Omega-3 levels lower the risk

The study of lead researcher Liana C Del Gobbo, Ph.D, of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine in California and colleagues monitored how omega-3 affects heart health. The team analyzed the data from across 16 countries like the US, the United Kingdom, Italy , Norway, Australia etc, that includes data of 45,637 individuals and found that 7,973 of the participants experienced a first time heart attack and with 2,781 dying as a result over time.

According to the findings of the team the participants who had higher concentrations of seafood-and plant-based omega-3s in their blood were around 10% less likely to die from heart attack, compared with participants who had lower omega-3 concentrations.

They identified that no reduced risk of non-fatal heart attack with higher blood levels of seafood-and plant-based omega-3s, which they say indicates there is a highly specific mechanism by which the fatty acids lower heart attack death risk. Researchers considered participant’s age, sex, race, the presence of diabetes, and use of aspirin or cholesterol-lowering drugs to make final evaluations.

The authors say their results indicate, “At a time when some, but not other trials of fish oil supplementation have shown benefits, there is uncertainty about cardiovascular effects of omega-3s. Our results lend support to the importance of fish and omega-3 consumption as part of a healthy diet.”

Omega-3s reduce breast cancer risk in obese women.

"Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect, so that's one of the reasons why we suspected it may be particularly effective in obese women," Dr. Manni says.

This new study was conducted by Dr. Andrea Manni, Professor and division chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Penn College of Medicine in Hershey, PA, and colleagues. They believe that this reduced risk could relate to increased levels of inflammation associated with obesity leading to breast cancer.

The research took place of an open-label, randomized clinical trial of 266 postmenopausal women with high breast density that was either a normal weight, overweight or obese.

The fatty acids found in fish oil as well as some plant and nut oils are believed to convey several health benefits, including reduced risk of coronary heart disease and improved cholesterol levels. Previous studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may help protect against breast cancer in obese women, although results have remained in conclusion.

The aim of the study was to measure the change in the participants’ breast density over 2 years. High breast density appears to be a risk factor for breast cancer. The findings are published in Cancer Prevention Research. 

Reduction in breast density

All the participants had a high breast density (of 25% or greater) at the outset of the study, detected via routine screening mammograms.

Participants were divided into five different treatment groups. Two groups received differing dosages of the anti-estrogen drug Raloxifene (60 mg and 30 mg), Omega-3 drug Lovaza (4gm) were prescribed for one group, and another group received 30 mg of Ralozifene combined with 4 gm of Lovaza. A control group received no treatment.

After 2 years, the researchers pointed out an association between increasing the level of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood and the breast density reduced, but only among the 20% of the participants who were obese. 

Dr.Manni concludes, “The finding supports the idea that omega-3s, and specifically DHA, are preferentially protective in obese postmenopausal women.” The study was funded by Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. 

Importance of fish oils

Fish oils are good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA. Predominantly the fish oil is extracted from the tissues of fatty fish like, tuna, mackerel and salmon.

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