EPA and DHA found in fish oils are now part of everyday medical practice

February 09, 2007

In the last several years EPA and DHA, the active constituents in Fish Oil Capsules, have been incorporated into the guidelines of Cardiac Societies for both prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. This is because of the positive results obtained in large scale epidemiological studies, vascular biology research, and most importantly in large-scale intervention trials. EPA and DHA have advanced from scientific research into everyday practice.

EPA and DHA help prevent arrhythmias from both the ventricles (a cause of sudden cardiac death) and above the ventricles in the atrium or atrioventricular node. They also have an antiatherosclerotic effect (decreasing hardening of the arteries). However, fish rich in EPA-DHA contaminated with methyl mercury appear less protective.

Large-scale clinical trials demonstrated that morbidity (sickness and disease) can be reduced when supplementing a population already consuming large amounts of EPA-DHA (fish) with additional EPA-DHA (supplement). Therapy with Fish Oil Capsules can be monitored with the Omega-3 Index to see if you are taking enough to prevent sudden cardiac death (see next study).

European and American cardiac Societies have incorporated EPA-DHA (Fish Oil) supplements into treatment guidelines for myocardial infarction (heart attack), prevention of cardiovascular disease, treatment of ventricular arrhythmias and prevention of sudden cardiac death. Physicians need to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease by advocating EPA-DHA to all patients likely to benefit. The report prepared at the Department of Preventive Cardiology, Ludwig-Maximillians University in Munich is published in March 2007 issue of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. Commentary by Jerry Hickey, R.Ph. ? The American Heart Association advises people with Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) to consume about 1,000mg of EPA-DHA each day. CHD is due to a plaque build up causing narrowing of the blood vessels feeding the heart with oxygenated blood. This leads to ischemia (reduced flow of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle) that causes angina (heart-chest pain) and heart attack.

The Omega-3 Index; a new way to measure risk factor for death from coronary heart disease

Clinical scientists at the Lipid and Diabetes research Center, Mid America Heart Institute of Saint Luke?s Hospital, University of Missouri-KC School of Medicine, state that low intakes or blood levels of EPA and DHA are independently associated with increased risk of death from coronary heart disease (CHD). In randomized secondary prevention trials , fish or fish oil supplements have been demonstrated to reduce total and CHD mortality at intakes of about 1 gram (1,000mg) a day.

The composition of fatty acids in red blood cells gives a picture of long-term EPA + DHA intake; this is the Omega-3 Index. The relationship between this marker and CHD death especially sudden cardiac death was evaluated in several published primary and secondary prevention studies. The results show that an Omega-3 Index below 4% is the least protective from dying and that an Index of at least 8% or more gave the greatest protection from cardiovascular death. The report is available through the Institute for Cancer Prevention or PubMed; the National Library of Medicine, The National Institutes of Health