Studies indicate a link between the concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in tissues, blood, and red blood cells, and the overall health of the cardiovascular system.
Previous research has linked omega-3s to a lower risk of abnormal heartbeats, fewer fats in the blood, reduced risk of artery-clogging deposits known as plaque, and slightly lower blood pressure.
In a recent study, researchers examined previously published research on EPA and DHA and found that consumption of these omega-3s in food or supplements was associated with a 16% lower risk of heart disease in people with high triglycerides, or fats, in the blood, and a 14% lower risk for patients with elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the bad kind.
To examine the connection between omega-3s and heart disease, researchers analyzed data from 18 trials that randomly assigned about 93 000 people to get a certain amount of these nutrients.
The study also reviewed results from another 17 previously published trials that observed about 732,000 people over long periods of time while they followed their usual diets. Combining all of these studies, omega-3s were tied to a statistically meaningful 18% reduction in the risk of heart disease.
In 2014, we conducted a study in 300 subjects with high triglyceride levels. This study found that krill oil was associated with a 10% reduction in triglyceride levels when the results were pooled from the four treatment groups. Moreover, LDL cholesterol levels were not increased in the krill oil groups relative to the placebo group – an important outcome, considering an increase in LDL cholesterol has been observed in some fish oil trials.
Throughout life the amount of omega-3s found in the brain is influenced by dietary intake of fatty acids and by the brain’s developmental stage.
Only adipose tissue contains more fatty acids than the body’s central nervous system, including the brain. In fact, the brain is 60% fat. And the most important omega-3 fatty acid seems to be DHA.
DHA is the most common fatty acid in the human brain, constituting 15% of all brain fatty acids. It is essential in supporting brain growth and cognitive function. Conversely, an omega-3 deficiency in brain tissue may affect brain functioning and delay development.
Passage of fatty acids into the brain is restricted—only omega-3s and other essential fatty acids cross the blood-brain barrier. While human breast milk contains relatively small amounts of omega-3s, most are bound to phospholipids.