Doctors have routinely prescribed Omega-3 fatty acids as a traditional “fish-oil” remedy for the prevention of major cardiovascular events in patients with or without a history of cardiovascular disease. Fatty acids work by lowering triglyceride levels and exerting anti-arrythmic and anti-inflammatory properties, they also reduce blood pressure levels and stabilize the atherosclerotic plaques. 1 In other studies, Omega-3 was found to decreased aortic pulse pressure and augmentation pressure.2
Omega 3 heart health benefits – fish oil might specifically counteract the detrimental effects of mental stress on the heart
In a recent study, scientists led by Jason R. Carter of Michigan Technological University provided evidence that fish oil might specifically counteract the detrimental effects of mental stress on the heart.
Their findings show that volunteers who took fish oil supplements for several weeks had a blunted response to mental stress in several measurements of cardiovascular health, including heart rate and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), part of the “fight or flight” response, compared to volunteers who took olive oil instead.
The results may explain why taking fish oil could be beneficial to the heart and might eventually help doctors prevent heart disease in select populations.
The study subjects were assigned to take either 9 grams of fish oil per day or 9 grams of olive oil, a placebo that hasn’t been shown to have the same beneficial cardiovascular effects as fish oil.
These results show that fish oil could have a protective effect on cardiovascular function during mental stress, a finding that adds a piece to the puzzle on why taking fish oil helps the heart stay healthy, the authors suggest.
“Overall,” the study authors say, “the data support and extend the growing evidence that fish oil may have positive health benefits regarding neural cardiovascular control in humans and suggest important physiological interactions between fish oil and psychological stress that may contribute to disease etiology.”3
Fish Oils and blood pressure
Fish oil of course is one of the most popular supplements for cardiac problems, recently researchers pointed out that: “Omega-3 (omega-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) from fish and fish oils
appear to protect against coronary heart disease: their dietary intake is in fact inversely associated with cardiovascular disease morbidity/mortality in population studies. Recent evidence suggests that at least a part of this protective effect is mediated by a relatively small but significant decrease in blood pressure (BP) level.” (1)
Fish Oils and chronic arrhythmia
In other research, the scientists suggested that Omega-3 reduced coronary heart disease complications for patients with cardiovascular disease, such as chronic arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death. Improved myocardial resistance to ischemia-reperfusion injury (injury when the blood returns to heart muscle) results in smaller myocardial infarction, which is a major factor in the occurrence of CHD complications.” (2)
Of course not every one agrees: “Fish oils are widely believed to promote cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure (BP) but the evidence supporting this is not conclusive.” However, these researchers did find benefit, just not enough to suggest that people stop taking their BP meds. “The small but statistically significant effects of fish-oil supplements in hypertensive participants in this review have important implications for population health and lowering the risk of stroke and ischaemic heart disease. Their modest effects, however, mean that they should not be recommended as an alternative to BP-lowering drugs where guidelines recommend treatment.” (3)
1. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: their potential role in blood pressure prevention and management. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2009 Jul;7(3):330-7.
2. Zeghichi-Hamri S, de Lorgeril M, Salen P, Chibane M. et al. Protective effect of dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on myocardial resistance to ischemia-reperfusion injury in rats. Nutr Res. 2010 Dec;30(12):849-57.
3. Campbell F, Dickinson HO, Critchley JA, et al. A systematic review of fish-oil supplements for the prevention and treatment of hypertension. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2012 Jan 30. [Epub ahead of print]
1. Rizos EC, Elisaf MS. Current evidence and future perspectives of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Eur J Pharmacol. 2013 Mar 13. pii: S0014-2999(13)00159-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2013.02.050. [Epub ahead of print]
2. Pase MP, Grima N, Cockerell R, Stough C, Scholey A, Sali A, Pipingas A. The effects of long-chain omega-3 fish oils and multivitamins on cognitive and cardiovascular function: a randomized, controlled clinical trial. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(1):21-31. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2014.880660. Epub 2015 Jan 7.