from Karen Angelo
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, are known to reduce heart disease risks for everyone. However, a new analysis finds that the benefits of omega-3 consumption on cardiovascular outcomes and cognitive function may differ by sex and race.
Biomedical and Food Sciences Assoc. Prof. Mahdi Garelnabi and his colleagues reviewed data from 24 studies, which included more than 700,000 individuals from several countries.
Published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, the analysis shows that supplementation of two of three omega-3 fatty acids improved cardiometabolic outcomes in black men as well as Asian women. In one of the studies, black participants who took omega-3 supplements had a 77% reduction in heart attacks compared to the general group.
“We found that in some studies, black men who consumed omega-3 fatty acid supplements had improved outcomes compared to other ethnic groups,” says Gerelnabi, who chairs the Biology Organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Vascular of North America and is chief laboratory director for the UMass Lowell Center for Population Health. “Given the prevalence of cardiovascular and cognitive decline associated with omega-3 fatty acid intake documented in this review, clinical recommendations such as dietary changes may be a cost-effective way to prevent disease.”
In the United States, one in five deaths is caused by cardiovascular disease for both men and women. In 2019, African Americans were 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic whites, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health.
What are Omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids provide the body with energy and protect against inflammation in the cardiovascular, neurological and endocrine systems. Specific types of omega-3 include DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), both found in fish, and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is found in plants. In addition to fatty fish, other foods that contain omega-3s include flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
The beneficial effect of fish appears to be due to the presence of EPA and DHA, which are found in fatty fish such as salmon, Atlantic mackerel, Atlantic herring, sardines, anchovies and tuna.
The benefits of oily fish for women
In 11 of the 24 studies, results for women were reported separately. The analysis found that Danish women who ate two servings of fatty fish a week had a 22% lower rate of heart attacks, compared to a 12% lower rate in men. Women in Shanghai had lower rates of death, cardiovascular death, and hemorrhagic stroke, while men did not. The benefit appears to be related to blood levels of EPA and DHA. Women in the highest fifth of omega-3 intake had lower rates of mortality and death from cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
“While omega-3 fatty acid intake is known to be beneficial for heart health for everyone, when omega-3 supplements were given to a diverse group of subjects, some studies show that black men and women and Asian women benefited the most than others. ethnic groups”, says Garelnabi.
Prevention of cognitive decline
Some of the long-term studies that were analyzed suggest that eating two servings of fish per week was associated with a 30% reduction in Alzheimer’s disease for all populations. In randomized controlled trials of EPA and DHA supplementation, women have improved cognitive function.
“DHA appears more beneficial than EPA, and supplementation is most beneficial when started before cognitive decline,” says Garelnabi.
Eating healthy foods is better than consuming supplements
Although some of the study participants consumed supplements as part of the trial, the USDA, the American Heart Association and other professional organizations recommend getting the right nutrients from foods rather than supplements. However, for people with certain risk factors, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, doctors may consider prescribing supplements or a change in diet in addition to other treatments.