Cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to be one of the leading causes of death worldwide, despite advancements in disease prevention and treatment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), CVD is the cause of approximately 17.9 million deaths in 2019, accounting for 32% of all global deaths. Of these fatalities, a staggering 85% were attributed to heart attacks and strokes.
Within the Republic of Korea, among the major chronic diseases (excluding cancer), CVD exhibited the highest mortality rate, with 61.5 deaths per 100,000 individuals in the population in 2021. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency also reported a swift rise in the socio-economic burden associated with CVD.
Given that chronic degenerative diseases contribute significantly to escalating healthcare costs on an annual basis, Korean health regulatory bodies have been striving to prioritize the prevention of CVD-related morbidity and mortality.
One such way to manage CVD is through Omega-3 fatty acid suplementation. This study by Korean researchers investigated the potential advantages of omega-3 supplementation in relation to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Korean adults, both in terms of health and economic value. Through meta-analysis, the research team calculated the risk ratio (RR) and absolute risk reduction (ARR), while also considering the economic implications associated with CVD treatments.
The researchers referenced a study based in the United States. Research conducted using the accounting methods of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) indicated that providing approximately 1800 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day to each member of a Medicare program could result in a reduction of hospital and physician costs by USD 3.2 billion over a span of five years.
This research has suggested that omega-3 supplementation may be associated with a decreased incidence of fatal myocardial infarctions, lower cardiovascular mortality rates, and cost savings when compared to a scenario with no supplementation in the US.
The Korean study aimed to prove a similar hypothesis. It included a comprehensive analysis of 33 studies related to CVD outcomes, encompassing a total of 80,426 participants in the group receiving omega-3 supplements. There were also 80,251 participants in the control group.
Meta-analysis from this study revealed a notable decrease in the risk of CVD with omega-3 supplementation, with a risk ratio of 0.92 and a 95% confidence interval ranging from a risk ratio of 0.86 to 0.97. Additionally, an absolute risk ratio of 1.48% was calculated, signifying the tangible reduction in risk attributable to omega-3 consumption.
A subgroup analysis further highlighted that higher doses of omega-3 and extended periods of consumption may augment these positive effects. In terms of duration and dosage, a notable decrease in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk was evident when individuals consumed 2g of omega-3 for a duration exceeding 2 years, implying the potential for disease prevention through prolonged use or increased intake. However, safety studies on consuming large amounts of omega-3 over a long period are necessary beforehand.
Applying the ARR derived from the meta-analysis to the estimated target population of approximately 1,167,370 individuals in the Republic of Korea in 2021, the study projected potential economic benefits by subtracting the expenses incurred from purchasing omega-3 supplements from the overall savings in social costs related to CVD treatment. The study estimated that these supplements could result in a benefit of KRW 300 billion in the long run.
“Assessing Health and Economic Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Cardiovascular Disease in the Republic of Korea”
Authors: Moon Seong Kim, et al