Until now, it has been disputed whether omega-3 fatty acids are healthy for the cardiovascular system, i.e. whether they protect the heart, or whether they are useless. Omega-3 fatty acids are found, for example, in fish oil from fatty marine fish such as mackerel or wild salmon, or in krill oil, which are marketed as food supplements.
Cardiovascular diseases, the most common cause of death in Germany
About 40% of all deaths in Germany are caused by cardiovascular diseases, making them the most common cause of death in Germany. However, it was previously unclear whether omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent cardiovascular disease - the studies were contradictory. Now the most comprehensive study to date finally sheds light on this question; it was published in the September issue of the renowned Mayo Clinic Proceedings. (1)
More than 135,000 study participants in 40 studies
This meta-analysis evaluated a total of 40 clinical trials, with more than 135,000 study participants. All studies addressed the question of whether the intake of omega-3 fatty acids has a benefit for cardiovascular prevention, i.e. for the prevention of heart attacks, strokes or coronary heart disease (CHD).
Statistically clear: Omega-3 reduces cardiovascular risk
In fact, the authors of this study were able to clearly prove that increasing intake of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (see below) significantly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and heart attacks. Specifically, the study found that dietary supplementation with EPA+DHA reduced the risk of fatal heart attacks by 35%, and mortality from cardiovascular disease by about 10% - both statistically significant. The studies examined omega-3 doses of up to 5.5 g per day. The cardiovascular benefit apparently increases with the dosage.
Additional intake of EPA and DHA for more heart protection
"The study supports the idea that taking EPA and DHA contributes to heart protection. Regardless of how much omega-3 you get in your diet, you should probably supplement these fatty acids," says cardiologist Carl Lavie, one of the study authors. He adds: "People should consider the benefits of omega-3 supplements, in doses of 1 to 2 g per day. This is far higher than what even people who regularly eat sea fish take in."
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are long-chain fatty acids found in fish oil or krill oil. Eating fish, especially fatty fish like wild salmon, anchovies and sardines, is the optimal way to get EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. This is because fish also provides other beneficial nutrients. However, most people do not eat enough fish, so supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids can fill this gap.