Omega-3s have been recommended as heart health supplements by the American Heart Association (AHA) for the past 20 years. Omega-3s are found in both plant and marine sources, but it’s important to know that not just any Omega-3 provides heart health benefits. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Omega-3s specifically from marine sources such as mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and even algae, are the real source of these benefits. In this article, how does fish oil help your heart will be addressed right after a brief history lesson on Omega-3s and heart health.
The History of Omega-3s and the Heart
The initial research on how Omega-3s work in the body celebrated its 50th anniversary in May 2021. It started in Greenland looking at the indigenous people and how they maintained heart health despite their diets high in fat. What was discovered was the type of fat they were eating: their diets consisted primarily of fatty fish, like salmon. The concept that fatty acids from fish could meaningfully influence cardiovascular pathways, beyond maintaining healthy cholesterol, was revolutionary.
This research spearheaded more than 45,000 articles published on the benefits of Omega-3s on the body. If you are considering eating more omega-3s or taking an omega-3 supplement for cardiovascular health and as a heart healthy supplement, rest assured, the supportive research is there!
How to Keep Your Heart Healthy: The Sea’s The Key
So, how does fish oil help your heart? A diet rich in fish and seafood has been associated with sustaining healthy heart functions such as maintaining good cholesterol levels, supporting a healthy resting blood pressure, and even providing antioxidant properties that may improve the function of the cells that line blood vessels, in turn supporting circulation. The American Heart Association, and most healthcare professionals, recommend between 500mg - 1,500mg of EPA and DHA per day. EPA and DHA are essential nutrients, meaning we need them to function properly, but our bodies can’t make them from scratch, so we must get them through our diets or through heart healthy supplements.
Getting enough high-quality Omega-3s (EPA and DHA) solely from eating fish two to three times a week has become a slippery slope – there are many factors to consider. When you eat a piece of fish, it is made of natural ingredients your body recognizes, breaks down and digests, and transfers through the small intestine to the body’s internal environment where it is then absorbed to be used. Some fish sources may contain harmful chemicals like mercury and a man-made chemical called Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). Dependent on the fish source, these contaminants can build up in the fatty tissues of the fish. So, if the fish you’re eating came from a source that has contaminants like mercury or PCBs, these contaminants are then transferred to your body when you eat and digest the fish. Refer to this list for safe fish-eating guidelines.
How To Make Sure You’re Getting Enough EPA and DHA
The solution to making sure you’re getting enough EPA and DHA Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, without the extras, is through Omega-3 supplements, most known as heart health supplements and supplements for cardiovascular health. Omega-3 supplements are made by the oils in a piece of fish being pressed out. Once extracted, these oils are placed in a large vat for a specific cleaning called distillation. During the distillation process, ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is added to raise the boiling point and allow the impurities in the oil to precipitate off. Once the impurities are removed, the fish oil is then analyzed so that the EPA and DHA molecules can be isolated and concentrated.
Companies that produce superior, more-pure Omega-3 products take an extra costly step to continue the micro-distillation process to remove the leftover ethanol once the fish oil is cleaned and concentrated. This oil is called re-esterified triglyceride (rTG). What this means is that the final product is just like eating a nice piece of fish without all the impurities from the sea. Taking an rTG Omega-3 fish oil ensures that the body can recognize the nutrients and gain the benefits from them, without any contaminants.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease: New Recommendations from the American Heart Association | American Heart Association (AHA)
Bang and Dyerberg’s Omega-3 Discovery Turns Fifty | Nature Food
Development of A Novel Database to Review and Assess the Clinical Effects of EPA and DHA Omega-3 Fatty Acids | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease: An Updated Meta-Analysis of 13 Randomized Controlled Trials Involving 127,477 Participants | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
PCBs in Fish and Shellfish | Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Seafood Selector
Fish Contamination | County of Los Angeles Public Health
Last Updated On: January 12, 2022
First Published On: November 11, 2022