Omega-3 ‘scientifically supported’ to reduce blood vessel stiffness

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Omega-3 ‘scientifically supported’ to reduce blood vessel stiffness

Related tags Omega-3 fatty acids Omega-3 fatty acid

A review of the scientific literature reveals that omega-3 fatty acids offer a ‘scientifically supported means of reducing arterial stiffness’, says a new review from Australia.

According to findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition​, analysis of data from ten clinical trials revealed that omega-3 fatty acids were associated with an improvement of both pulse wave velocity and arterial compliance, both of which are measures of the stiffness of arteries.

“The findings of the present study reveal that supplementation with omega-3 offers a scientifically supported means of reducing arterial stiffness,”​ wrote researchers from the NICM Centre for Study of Natural Medicines and Neurocognition in Australia.

“Reduction in arterial stiffness by n-3 may account for some of its purported cardioprotective effects.”

Heart health and beyond

The heart health benefits of consuming oily fish, and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s by Dr Jorn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. To date, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to improvements in blood lipid levels, a reduced tendency of thrombosis, blood pressure and heart rate improvements, and improved vascular function.

Beyond heart health, omega-3 fatty acids, most notably EPA and DHA, have been linked to a wide-range of health benefits, including reduced risk of certain cancers, good development of a baby during pregnancy, joint health, and improved behavior and mood.

Despite such benefits there are still problems with ensuring adequate omega-3 intakes from fatty fish. This has led to a fleet of omega-3-rich concentrates becoming available. Projections by Frost & Sullivan set annual growth for the omega-3 market at an impressive 24 per cent, and the market is estimated to be worth $1.6bn by 2014.

Review details

Led by Matthew Pase, the reviewers conducted the first meta-analysis to examine the effects of omega-3 supplementation on the stiffness of arteries.

The literature yielded ten randomised and controlled adult human clinical trials. Four trials measured pulse wave velocity and six measured arterial compliance.

“Meta-analysis revealed that omega-3 was statistically significant in effectively improving both PWV and arterial compliance,”​ wrote the researchers.


A recent article, also published in the British Journal of Nutrition​, concluded that daily doses of omega-3s of at least 250 milligrams are required to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death and other heart conditions.

A dose of at least 250 mg of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (LCFA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), was associated with a 35 percent reduction in the risk of sudden cardiac death.

In addition, such doses were associated with a ‘near-significant’ 17 percent decrease in the risk of ‘total fatal coronary events’, according to a team of researchers from academia and industry.

“Thus, the intake of 250 mg omega-3 LCFA per day may, indeed, be a minimum target to be achieved by the general population for the promotion of cardiovascular health,”​ wrote authors led by Kathy Musa-Veloso from Cantox Health Sciences International.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, FirstView Articles, doi: 10.1017/S0007114511002819
“Do long-chain n-3 fatty acids reduce arterial stiffness? A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials”
Authors: M.P. Pase, N.A. Grima, J. Sarris

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