Fish oil, cocoa & plant sterols: The winning combination against heart disease?

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Consumption ingredients such as phytosterols, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and flavanols are known to exert beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease. (© iStock.com/Guido Verola)
Consumption ingredients such as phytosterols, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and flavanols are known to exert beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease. (© iStock.com/Guido Verola)
Combining fish oil, cocoa extract and plant sterols food supplements could offer an effective defence against heart disease, a new study suggests.  

The study published in  PLOS One ​focused on the efficacy of a combination of fish oil, cocoa extract and plant sterols as a preventative strategy against atherosclerosis, a major cause​ of heart disease.

It has been known for some time that the consumption of various active food ingredients can improve cardiovascular health.

Fish oils in particular have shown particular promise in lowering plasma cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of a heart attack​.

Industry and academia mix

chocolate and cocoa powder istock
Cocoa extracts have also demonstrated anti-atherosclerotic effects in studies. (© iStock.com)

A collaboration between Cardiff University scientists and supplement manufacturer Cultech used cell-based models to screen a nutritional supplement containing these active components.

The team found the supplement weakened cells involved in artery build-up and blockage. Foam cells, which are responsible for transporting cholesterol, also improved function.

Cells with a propensity to promote inflammation were also seemed to be inhibited by the supplement.

“This is the first in vitro study to examine the effect of this combination of nutritional ingredients,”​ the study said.

“The ability of physiologically relevant doses of this unique formulation to beneficially modulate multiple key atherosclerotic events highlights the possibility of a nutritionally orientated approach to support the prevention of early disease development.”

A large number of in vivo studies have demonstrated the anti-atherosclerotic actions of fish oils​, cocoa extracts​ and plant sterols​.

However, the researchers were quick to point out the undesirable effects of these agents in numerous studies​. However they said other food sources, genetic make-up and various risk factors such as elevated plasma cholesterol levels could be contributing factors.

Source: PLOS One

Published online ahead of print, doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0151057

“A Unique Combination of Nutritionally Active Ingredients Can Prevent Several Key Processes Associated with Atherosclerosis In Vitro.”

Authors: J. Moss, T. Davies, I. Garaiova, S. Plummer, D. Michael and D. Ramji

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