EPA, the Fish Oil Omega-3 Fatty Acid stops a repeat stroke

July 17, 2008

Eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA -- the essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid abundant in oily fish -- may help protect stroke patients from suffering a second stroke, a Japanese study shows.

In a study of people with high cholesterol who were taking a low dose of a cholesterol-lowering "statin," researchers found that adding EPA did not affect the risk of a first stroke but did lower recurrence rates in those with a history of stroke.

The finding, published in the journal Stroke, stems from a large study of 18,645 patients with elevated cholesterol levels who were randomly assigned to a low dose of pravastatin or simvastatin daily alone or with 1800 milligrams of EPA daily for roughly 5 years.

Dr. Kortaro Tanaka of Toyama University Hospital and colleagues found that rates of first stroke were 1.3 percent and 1.5 percent in the EPA and no-EPA groups -- a slight but nonsignificant difference.

However, there were far fewer second strokes in the EPA group. The recurrent stroke rates were 6.8 percent in the EPA group versus 10.5 percent in the no-EPA group -- a significant difference.

Tanaka and colleagues say it is noteworthy that even among Japanese individuals, who have relatively high blood concentrations of EPA, "further increases in EPA concentration may lead to prevention of recurrence of stroke."

Based on the many studies of fish consumption in the US and Europe, Tanaka stated in an interview, "The beneficial effects of EPA which became clear from our study can be applied to other nationalities." The study is published in the July 2008 issue of the journal Stroke.