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The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is especially good for the cardiovascular system

The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is especially good for the cardiovascular systemIt is commonly known that fish oil with its high content of the two omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA helps prevent atherosclerosis. According to a new international study, it appears to be DHA that has the major effect. This new insight, which has surprised the scientists, is relevant to public health because cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death.

The higher the blood content of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, the lower the risk of clogging of the coronary arteries, according to Agatson, which is a method for measuring the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries. The findings are based on data from nearly one thousand healthy men in their forties from Pittsburgh and Honolulu in the United States and Shiga in Japan. However, according to the scientists from the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Hawaii, Shiga University of Medical Science (Japan), and Korea University (South Korea), who conducted the research, no significant relation was observed between levels of EPA and cardiovascular health.

Eat oily fish or take supplements to improve cardiovascular health

The researchers say that their study is important for public health because many people already take fish oil supplements. Nonetheless, the scientific proof of fish oil’s beneficial effects has been limited. Much to their surprise, the researchers found that it was DHA and not EPA that had the greatest impact on cardiovascular health. There has already been an ongoing discussion about which of the two omega-3 fatty acids has the best effect.
The scientists point out that both types have beneficial health effects and recommend that anyone with an interest in taking good care of his or her health should eat oily fish or take a fish oil supplement.

Study details

The scientists measured omega-3 levels in the blood in 300 Caucasian American men, 101 African-American men, 287 Japanese American men and 310 Japanese men living in Japan. They found that nearly 57 percent of the men had partial clogging of the aorta and that those with highest blood levels of DHA had the lowest degree of atherosclerosis.
The scientists say that DHA’s mechanisms of action may be related to its anti-inflammatory effect. Other studies suggest DHA’s triglyceride-lowering impact and its role in enzymes in the lipid metabolism.
According to the researchers, this is the first large population study of men from different ethnic backgrounds that has looked closer at the relation between EPA and DHA and atherosclerosis in the aorta. They say more randomized studies are needed in order to determine the optimal levels of EPA and DHA in terms of cardiovascular health and atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries.

It takes years for atherosclerosis to develop. Therefore, it is a good idea to start eating a heart-healthy diet as soon as possible with adequate amounts of oily fish and possibly even a daily fish oil supplement.


Hemant Mahajan et al. Serum Long-chain n-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids and aortic calcification in middle-aged men: The population-based cross-sectional ERA-JUMP study. Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases. 2019

Magnus Bäck. Omega-3 fatty acids in atherosclerosis and coronary disease. Future Science OA. 2017

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