Omega-3-rich meals have blood vessel benefits: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Increased intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may improve blood vessel health following a meal, says a new study from the UK.

Arteries were found to be less stiff following consumption of a medium fat meal supplemented with 4.7 grams of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), according to findings published in Clinical Nutrition​.

The study is said to be the first to evaluate EPA and DHA supplementation on the stiffness of arteries following a meal in men and women, stated the researchers from the University of Reading.

“As individuals spend the majority of the day in a postprandial state, it could be predicted that these transient improvements in arterial stiffness would have beneficial effects on long term vascular health and cardiovascular risk,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Julie Lovegrove.

The heart health benefits of consuming oily fish, and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s by Jorn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet​ and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​. To date, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to improvements in blood lipid levels, a reduced tendency of thrombosis, blood pressure and heart rate improvements, and improved vascular function.

Omega-3 fatty acids, most notably DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), have been linked to a wide-range of health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and certain cancers, good development of a baby during pregnancy, joint health, and improved behaviour and mood.

Study details

Dr Lovegrove and her co-workers recruited 12 healthy men and 13 healthy women and randomly fed them either a control or an omega-3 (Incromega 500TG SR EPA and DHA, Croda Europe) rich meal on two occasions.

Results showed that consumption of omega-3 reversed the increases in arterial stiffness observed after the control meal, with the effects more pronounced in men than women.

The levels of nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) was also observed to be significantly lower following the omega-3-rich meal, which could be due to increased production of the vasodilator nitric oxide (NO), said the researchers. Previous studies have reported that fish oil may improve the bioavailability of nitric oxide (NO) in walls of blood vessels, while high NEFA levels may reduce nitric oxide production.

“These data indicate that acute long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid-rich meal consumption can improve postprandial arterial stiffness. This has important implications for the beneficial properties of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and cardiovascular risk reduction,”​ stated the researchers.

“Further investigation with larger sample sizes matching subjects by gender and age would be required to determine the key factors contributing to postprandial responsiveness of arterial stiffness to a LC n [1]​3 PUFA-rich meal for both measures of arterial stiffness,”​ they concluded the researchers.

Source: Clinical Nutrition
Published online, doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2010.02.001
“Long chain omega-3 PUFA-rich meal reduced postprandial measures of arterial stiffness”
​Authors: M.F.-F. Chong, S. Lockyer, C.J. Saunders, J.A. Lovegrove

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