Omega-3 supplements reduce cardiovascular risk

Approved EFSA claim

  • The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA contribute to the normal function of the heart. Beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 250 mg of EPA and DHA.
  • The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA contribute to the maintenance of normal blood pressure and this beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 3 g of EPA and DHA.
  • DHA and EPA contribute to the maintenance of normal blood triglyceride levels and this beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 2 g of EPA and DHA.

Background for EFSA claim

Over 4 000 studies show the benefits of EPA and DHA on human heart health. Additionally, low omega-3 levels in the body are associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Omega-3 fatty acids further support healthy blood vessels by decreasing arterial stiffness and increasing endothelial function.

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, as part of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, help support the heart in a variety of ways. In addition, low omega-3 levels in the body are associated with increased cardiovascular risk.

Given that many people aren’t getting enough omega-3, due to not eating enough fish or getting enough sun on the skin, it’s important to obtain more of these nutrients.

According to the results of a study conducted under the auspices of Harvard Medical School, people with a low dietary intake of fish will likely reduce their cardiovascular risk with omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin D supplementation.

Known as the Vital study, this on-going research is investigating whether dietary supplements of vitamin D3 or omega-3 fatty acids reduce cardiovascular risk in people with no prior history of these diseases.

The study further shows that people with a high fish consumption do not appear to benefit from omega-3 supplementation, perhaps because they are already meeting their omega-3 requirements by eating fish (as indicated in the figure below.)

The study, which also looks at the risks for invasive cancer, includes 25,871 people, who were given a daily dose of 1 g of omega-3 (840 mg EPA + DPA and 50 µg vitamin D).

The primary parameters of the study for cardiovascular risk are major cardiovascular events (a composite of myocardial infarction, stroke, or death from cardiovascular causes). It is a randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with two-by-two factorial design.

Primary cardiovascular risk findings

The primary cardiovascular findings of the study are that supplementation with vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids was not associated with a lower   cardiovascular risk than with placebo. However, for those with a fish consumption lower than 1.5 servings (100 g) per week, there was a 19% reduced risk for major cardiovascular events.

Secondary cardiovascular risk findings

The secondary cardiovascular risk findings of the study are that participants with a low fish consumption experienced:

  • 28% reduced risk of myocardial infarction (MI)
  • 50% reduced risk of death from MI
  • 22% reduced risk of angioplasty
  • 17% reduced risk of coronary heart disease

Reference: JoAnn Manson, MD, Study Director, www.vitalstudy.org/findings.html/ J.E. Manson et al NEJM 2018, Nov 10, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1811403

Omega-3 with documented effects!

It is well documented that omega-3 from cod liver or fish oils is good for the​ heart, brain and vision of healthy people. The European Food Safety Authority has thoroughly reviewed all research on omega-3 benefits and has approved health claims for the heart, brain and vision.​