Omega-3 ethyl esters may make blood vessels more elastic: Study


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Omega-3 ethyl esters may make blood vessels more elastic: Study

Related tags Omega-3 fatty acid Fatty acid Blood pressure

Supplements of omega-3 fatty acids in the ethyl ester form may reduce the stiffness in arteries and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in obese people, says a new study from Australia.

Using the Lovaza/Omacor product, researchers noted that 12 weeks of supplementation with four grams per day in combination with a weight loss diet resulted in increases in arterial elasticity of about 20%. These changes were not observed in people only adhering to the weight loss diet.

Writing in the Journal of Nutrition​, researchers from the University of Western Australia and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth note that adding omega-3s to the weight loss diet produced greater improvements in systolic blood pressure, heart rate, and triglycerides.

“Our data suggest that the combination of omega-3 fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) and weight loss not only corrects dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, and hypertension but also improves [artery elasticity],”​ wrote the researchers, led by Annette Wong.

“In light of the recent evidence suggesting the association between arterial elasticity and incidence of future coronary and peripheral artery diseases, our new data also support the addition of omega-3 FAEEs to weight loss to improve arterial elasticity.”


Commenting independently on the study, Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory & scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), urged caution when interpreting the results. 

"Results from this research should be considered preliminary in nature. Given the low number of subjects combined with an absence of a placebo control, these results need to be interpreted with caution," ​Dr Rice told us.

Study details

Wong and her co-workers recruited 25 obese individuals to participate in their randomized, single-blind trial. All the participants were assigned to a 25% energy deficit weight loss diet, with 13 of these also receiving addition omega-3 supplements (4 grams per day of Lovaza/Omacor, providing 46% EPA and 38% DHA).

After 12 weeks of interventions, the researchers noted that, in the weight loss diet-only group, body weight decreased by 3%, waist circumference decreased by 4%, systolic and diastolic blood pressures both decreased by 3%, triglyceride levels fell by 25%, and insulin resistance (as measured by the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA)) decreased by 12%. HDL cholesterol levels increased by 9%, they added.

The weight loss diet-only group did not experience any significant changes in measures of arterial elasticity.

Adding omega-3 supplements to the diet produced significant improvements in arterial elasticity, said Wong and her co-workers.

In addition, the omega-3 group displayed significantly greater improvements in systolic blood pressure, heart rate, and triglyceride levels, compared to the weight loss diet-only group.

Commenting on the potential mechanisms, the researchers made three proposals: The omega-3 ethyl esters may enhance the production of the vasodilating molecule nitric oxide (NO); it may displace the pro-inflammatory omega-6 arachidonic acid (AA) from cell membranes and offer anti-inflammatory activity; or the anti-inflammatory effects may directly influence a vasodilatory effect in smooth muscle cells.

For a discussion on the merits of the different omega-3 forms, please read: Battle of the omega-3 forms: Triglycerides, ethyl esters, or phospholipids?

Source: Journal of Nutrition
2013, Volume 143, Number 4, Pages 437-441, doi: 10.3945/​jn.112.169359
“Supplementation with n3 Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters Increases Large and Small Artery Elasticity in Obese Adults on a Weight Loss Diet”
Authors: A.T. Y. Wong, D.C. Chan, P.H.R. Barrett, L.A. Adams, G.F. Watts

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