The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, aimed to examine how daily intake of margarine enriched with 400mg combined EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) affected elderly individuals who had suffered a heart attack more than four years previously. It found “no effect on the rate of major cardiovascular events”.
But GOED, an organization that represents about 85 omega-3 suppliers, has said this conclusion should not negate earlier findings of the fatty acids’ benefits at higher doses. It said there were several problems with the study, including a relatively low dosage of omega-3, and that all subjects were given blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering treatments during the study period.
Executive director of GOED Adam Ismail said: "While 400 mg of combined EPA/DHA provides a sufficient dose for most healthy individuals, previous clinical studies in individuals having suffered a heart attack suggest that 1,000 mg+ of EPA/DHA decreases the incidence of secondary cardiovascular events — more than twice the dose administered in the recently published study."
One such study, published in Clinical Nutrition earlier this year, examined the impact of three grams of omega-3 per day in a dairy drink, and found improvements in a range of cardiovascular risk factors, including cholesterol levels, triacylglyceride levels, and the ratio of AA (arachidonic) acid to EPA.
The European Food Safety Authority has issued an opinion on ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), saying it supports lowering of blood cholesterol, but EPA/DHA were not backed for the same effect in an opinion published in October last year.
Ismail added: "GOED supports research that examines all health effects of consuming EPA- and DHA-rich sources, as our members' focus is on educating consumers on the complexities of EPA/DHA consumption...GOED is hopeful that the study's results showing the positive effect of low-dose EPA/DHA on diabetic subjects will yield further examination."
Omega-3 fatty acids, most notably DHA and EPA, have been linked to a wide range of benefits beyond heart health, including reduced risk of certain cancers, healthy foetal development, joint health, and improved behaviour and mood.