Omega-3 consumption in diet and as supplements has long shown promise as a potential therapy to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Just how much of these essential fats must be consumed for their protective benefits has remained a point of debate. A recent study reveals that omega-3 dosage matters when it comes to its hemodynamic effects, and that increased amounts offer increased benefits for individuals at rest, and under conditions of stress.
The randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 26 individuals (23 men, 3 women), and aimed to assess the effects of omega-3 consumption over eight weeks on heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) taken at the completion of both mentally and physically stressful tasks. These tasks included submersion of feet in cold water (physical), and a timed verbal defense of an accusation (mental). Participants were assigned to a high dose omega-3 group (3.4 grams EPA+DHA daily), a low-dose group (0.85 grams EPA+DHA daily), or a placebo group that received corn oil. Subjects were advised against potentially confounding dietary variables (e.g., fish consumption), and compliance was excellent at more than 95%.
“Treatment with the high dose of omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced heart rate [by 4 bpm, compared to placebo, and by 2 bpm compared to low-dose treatment] and blood pressure [by 2 mmHg compared to both low dose and placebo] and the magnitude of reduction did not differ between rest and stress positions.” The authors note that even modest reductions in blood pressure, around 5 mmHg, can potentially make a huge difference in the risk of strokes and cardiac events.
These findings, coupled with the excellent tolerability of omega-3 fish oil, and the current insufficient amounts of EPA+DHA consumed in the Australian diet, make supplementation with higher doses of these essential fats an attractive prospect.
Only ever use the purest fish oils – I recommend only Nordic Naturals. These should always be kept refrigerated and are available from all good health food stores.