Non-fish sources of omega-3s reduce risk of deadly heart disease by 20%

The plant version of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), may benefit heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease, according to new research published in a medical journal Advances in Nutrition. Previous research has linked omega-3s to a lower risk of heart disease, but that conclusion was based on omega-3s from fish and other seafood.

In a comprehensive literature review, researchers found that consumption of ALA found in plant-based foods was associated with a 10% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a 20% reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease. The researchers say their review suggests there are several ways to meet omega-3 fatty acid recommendations.

Omega-3s are essential fatty acids, which means your body cannot produce them on its own. They are composed of ALA, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While ALA can be found in plant-based foods such as nuts, flax seeds, soybeans, and canola oil, EPA and DHA are found in fish and other fruits. sea ​​salt. According to the National Institutes of Health, your body can convert some ALA to EPA and then to DHA in small amounts.

“People may not want to eat seafood for a variety of reasons, but it’s still important for them to consume omega-3s to reduce the risk of heart disease and promote overall health,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, professor of nutrition at Evan Pugh University. Sciences at Penn State, said in a statement. “Plant-based ALA in the form of nuts or flax seeds may also provide these benefits, especially when incorporated into a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.”

Plant Sources of Omega-3s for Heart Health

For the review, the researchers analyzed data from previous studies to assess the effects of ALA on heart disease and heart disease risk factors such as blood pressure and inflammation. The studies reviewed included both randomized controlled trials and observational studies. While some of the observational studies relied on participants reporting how often they ate certain foods to determine how much ALA they were consuming, others used biomarkers (a way to measure levels of ALA). ‘ALA in the blood) as a more accurate measurement.

After analyzing the studies, the researchers found that ALA had beneficial effects on the reduction of atherogenic lipids and lipoproteins, for example total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as on blood pressure. blood pressure and inflammation.

“When people with low levels of omega-3s in their diets ate ALA, they saw a benefit in cardiovascular health,” Jennifer Fleming, assistant professor of nutrition at Penn State, said in a statement. “But when people with high levels of omega-3s from other sources ate more ALA, they also saw a benefit. It could be that ALA works synergistically with other omega-3s.

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The researchers also found evidence to support current dietary guidelines that ALA should provide about 0.6% to 1% of total energy per day, or about 1.1 grams per day for women and 1.6 grams per day for men. These recommendations are equal to about half an ounce of walnuts or just under a teaspoon of flaxseed oil.

The researchers said future studies are needed to help better understand the effects of ALA on other major chronic diseases. Additionally, there is a need to assess whether recent scientific literature supports new, higher dietary recommendations for ALA.

To learn more about heart health, read:
5 heart health tips from herbal medicine professionals
Eating plant-based for dinner could lower your risk of heart disease
Doctors urged to prescribe plant-based foods as medicine

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