The research was published recently in the journal Hypertension. It was conducted by a team of German and Swiss researchers that included Clement von Schacky, PhD, who was a co-developer along with Harris of the Omega 3 Index.
Blood pressure suppression seen in younger adults
The researchers looked at a group of individuals aged 25 to 41 who were of normal weight and did not have other risk factors for high blood pressure, such as diabetes. When measuring both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure, they found significant, clinically-relevant associations between lower SBP and DBP readings and omega-3 levels when comparing individuals who scored in the lowest and highest quartiles on the Omega-3 Index.
It should be noted as a general observation that the Omega-3 Index values for this cohort, which was composed of more than 2,000 Swiss individuals who met the above criteria, is lower than what is considered optimum. The median reading was 4.58% and the readings covered a fairly narrow range. Prof. Harris said that 8% is what people ought to shoot for to enjoy the best protection from cardiovascular disease and other conditions that omega-3s can offer.
Prof. Harris, who teaches at the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota, said this study extends known associations with the Omega-3 Index to a new population group.
“We saw in the Framingham Study that there was a relationship between omega-3 status and blood pressure. To see this also in younger people, that’s what is novel here,” he told NutraIngredients-USA. Prof. Harris is also the president of OmegaQuant, a company which offers consumers and health practitioners a simple mail-in finger prick blood spot test to determine the Omega-3 Index level.
“Normally as we grow older there is an increase in blood pressure as the arteries stiffen. There is a trajectory of blood pressure over time that is related to the omega-3 level,” he said.
Risks of prehypertension
The recent research opens the door for a potential earlier cardioprotective role for omega-3s. In other words, keeping blood pressure lower, even in individuals who have not been diagnosed with high blood pressure per se, could yield better health outcomes years down the road. In this sense, ‘healthy aging’ might start from wherever you are.
Dr Wayne Heidenreich, MD, associate editor of the Journal of Insurance Medicine, told NutraIngredients-USA that controlling blood pressure is one of the key factors toward lessening the risk of life altering health conditions. These range from congestive heart failure through to more acute conditions. And he said the medical community is starting to view what for many years was known as ‘prehypertension’ as being almost as damaging as full blown high blood pressure.
“High blood pressure is starting to be redefined as anything over 120/80. This level and above has been associated with increasing risk of cardiovascular disease, and by this I mean not just heart disease but also stroke. Both of these can change your life,” he said.
The risks of high blood pressure, whether you define that as 120/80, 130/90 or another value, have been known for decades. But Dr Heidenreich said that more recent research is starting to associate higher than optimal blood pressure with increased risk of developing another condition that casts a dark shadow on modern life—Alzheimer’s disease.
“Increasingly the relationship of vascular disease to dementia is being recognized. So I would say that having good blood pressure is not only key to heart health but also to brain health,” Dr Heidenreich said.
“Whole blood omega-3 fatty acid concentrations are inversely associated with blood pressure in young, healthy adults.”
2018 Jul;36(7):1548-1554. doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000001728.
Authors: Filopovic MG, Aeschenbacher S, Reiner MG, et al.
Omega-3s panel discussion
Prof. Harris is one of the world’s foremost experts in the effects of omega-3s. He shared his expertise with listeners of a webinar broadcast by NutraIngredients-USA on Tuesday, June 26. To listen to a recorded version of this panel discussion, click here.