Daily Fish Oils are Now Recommended by Doctors for Many More Patients

Dr. Tallet

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the USA and worldwide. For heart disease, prevention is better than treatment. Among survivors of heart attack, 22-46% will be disabled with heart failure, 18-35% will have another heart attack, and 8-11% will have a stroke. Eight years after a heart attack, 50% of patients are dead.

You can increase your likelihood of preventing cardiovascular disease if you decrease your risk factors. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease that you cannot control include family history, male gender, and age. Risk factors that are under your control include smoking, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia.

Cholesterol was first associated with cardiovascular disease in the 1950s in the Framingham Heart Study. Cholesterol is a family of compounds. Some types of cholesterol can form atherosclerotic plaques in arteries that can obstruct blood flow. Plaques in the coronary arteries can cause angina and heart attacks. Plaques in the carotid arteries or arteries of the brain can cause stroke. Three forms of cholesterol related to vascular disease are LDL (“bad” cholesterol), triglycerides (TG), and HDL (“good” cholesterol). Elevated levels of LDL and TG are associated with increased cardiovascular risk while decreased HDL is associated with increased cardiovascular risk.

In 1984 the Lipid Research Clinics-Coronary Primary Prevention Trial not only reinforced the idea that elevated cholesterol increases risk of cardiovascular disease but also showed that lowering high levels of LDL decreases risk. Since then, well designed peer-reviewed studies have linked high LDL with cardiovascular disease and have shown that reducing LDL reduces the chance of having a heart attack, needing bypass surgery or angioplasty, or dying of cardiovascular disease. Other studies have shown that lowering TG and/or raising HDL will also lower cardiovascular risk.

Most studies used cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins. Yet, some trials showed a benefit from LDL reduction independent of the dose of statin. Many studies demonstrated decreased cardiovascular risk from reduction of LDL through diet, exercise or non-statin agents. Omega-three fatty acids have received much attention. In fact, the FDA states that supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Fatty acids are used in the body for energy storage, forming the membranes that surround all cells, protein metabolism, and formation of cholesterol. Fatty acids differ from each other by the number of carbons atoms they contain and by the location of special connections between carbon atoms called double bonds. Fatty acids are named by the position of these double bonds. Linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (LNA), are short omega-three fatty acids. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are longer omega-three fatty acids that can be synthesized in the body from LA and LNA, but it is more efficient to ingest them. Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential acids. Omega-9 fatty acids can be synthesized in the body and are not essential.

The metabolites of different essential fatty acids have unique health effects. Metabolites of omega-6 fatty acids form prostaglandins, mediators of inflammation and pain. Metabolites of EPA and DHA (omega-3 fatty acids) have been shown in many controlled studies to reduce LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular events-which is, after all, the point of reducing risk factors. Omega-6 fatty acids and omega-three fatty acids other than EPA and DHA do not have cardiovascular benefit.

When selecting omega-three fatty acid supplements, beware of some potential problems. First is purity. Because omega-three fatty acids are found primarily in fish, contamination by mercury is sometimes a problem. Second is fatty acid content. Omega-9 fatty acids are not essential. Preparations that include them increase fat content without increasing benefit. Omega-6 fatty acids are essential but do not confer cardiovascular benefit. Third is dose. The optimal dose is 2000-3000 mg/day. Finally, consider other active ingredients and how they interact with omega-three fatty acids.

Healthworx Omega-3 meets these tests. It is free of mercury and other impurities. It only contains the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Each capsule contains 2000 mg of active EPA and DHA. It is compounded with sesame lignans which regulate the metabolism of EPA and DHA to maximize conversion to beneficial fatty acids. Sesame lignans also potentiate the effects of antioxidants such as tocopherol (included in the formulation), increase the amount of LDL removed by scavenger cells by preventing LDL oxidation, and directly reduce the synthesis of LDL. It also includes polyphenols which also protect against oxidation of LDL cholesterol and promote its removal by scavenger cells. Evidence strongly demonstrates the role of polyphenols in prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and osteoporosis and suggests a role in prevention of neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes mellitus. Polyphenols are found in olive oil and are thought to mediate some of the beneficial effect of the Mediterranean diet.

In summary:

  • The omega-three fatty acids EPA and DHA reduce LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular risk
  • Not all omega-three preparations are free of mercury or non-beneficial fatty acids
  • Not all omega-three preparations are dosed correctly
  • Not all omega-three preparations are formulated with compounds that potentiate the effects of EPA and DHA