Omega-3 may improve brain health in people with heart disease: Study

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags Heart disease Heart attack Coronary artery disease Omega-3 fatty acid Dha Epa Cognitive health Fish oil supplements

The study found taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements was associated with better brain function in people with coronary artery disease.

The disease occurs when plaque builds up inside the walls of the coronary arteries, blocking blood supply to the heart and increasing the risk for a heart attack. Plaque buildup can also lead to vascular dementia in which portions of the brain don't get enough blood flow.

Heart disease affects about 16.5 million Americans, making heart attacks and strokes the leading causes of death in the US and world. 

New research from the American Heart Association suggests omega-3 fatty acid supplements keep some heart patients’ minds sharp as they age. 

The study

Researchers enlisted 250 cognitively healthy people with coronary artery disease. For 30 months, half took the highest FDA-approved dose of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. The other half served as a control group. The group taking the supplements had better coordination, reaction speed, memory and recall at 12 months as well as 30 months, compared to the control group.

The study linked better brain function to omega-3 fatty acid supplements in people with coronary artery disease, a heart disease that increases the risk for dementia.

Preventive health 

"Other researchers have looked at omega-3 fatty acids in people who already have cognitive impairment or dementia,"​ said Dr. Francine Welty, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston and one of the study's investigators. "But the people we looked at were cognitively healthy, and we found there may be a benefit from omega-3 fatty acids before cognitive decline begins."

More information to come

The preliminary findings will be presented this weekend by Dr. Vemuri at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia.

Andrea Wong, Ph.D., senior vice president, scientific & regulatory affairs, Council for Responsible Nutrition, told NutraIngredients-USA that the results are promising. 

“CRN is encouraged by the initial results of the recent study on omega-3 fatty acids that found supplementation with these nutrients was associated with improved brain function in people with coronary artery disease. Decades of research, including clinical trials, demonstrate the importance of omega-3s as essential nutrients for cognitive, prenatal and cardiovascular health. We look forward to reviewing the full study and identifying how it contributes to the growing evidence demonstrating the vast benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.”

About omega-3 fatty acids 

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are critical for normal brain function and development throughout all stages of life. These fats build cell membranes and promote new brain cell formation.

US dietary guidelines say adults should get about eight ounces a week of seafood, ideally by eating it twice a week in place of meats, poultry or eggs.The body needs them to function but doesn't produce them, so they must be eaten or taken in supplement form. 

The omega-3 market 

A growing number of consumers are incorporating fish oil supplements into their daily diets to combat heart disease and improve cognitive health, among other reasons.

The global EPA/DHA (Omega 3) Ingredients Market is expected to exceed $5.7 billion by 2026, according to Global Market Insights. 

Source: Journal of the American Heart Association
11 Nov 2019 Circulation. 2019; doi/10.1161/circ.140.suppl_1.10723
“A Plasma Phospholipid Omega-3 Fatty Acid Index > 4% Prevents Cognitive Decline in Cognitively Healthy Subjects With Coronary Artery Disease”
Authors: B. Vemuri, et al

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