More evidence of omega-3 benefits for the heart

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Eating foods rich in these fatty acids was associated with a better prognosis after a heart attack.

The regular consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, both of animal and vegetable origin, strengthens the membranes of the heart and helps improve the prognosis after a myocardial infarction, according to a study carried out in Spain by a team of researchers from the Hospital and the Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute (IGTP) and the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) have shown that.

For the research they used data from 950 patients. The omega-3 levels in these people’s blood were determined upon admission to the hospital for heart attack care. The parameter studied indicates, with great precision, how many of these fats the patients had ingested in the weeks prior to sampling, that is, before the heart attack.

The patients were monitored for three years after being discharged and the researchers observed that having high levels of omega-3s in the blood at the time of the heart attack, which had been consumed in the weeks before the event, was associated with a lower risk of complications. The results of the study have just been published in the prestigious journal Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in oily fish. When we eat oily fish regularly, EPA is incorporated into the phospholipids of the cardiomyocyte membranes, protecting them from a wide variety of cardiac stressors. This enrichment of myocardial membranes limits the damage caused in the event of a heart attack.

The main novelty of this study is that it also focused on another omega-3 fatty acid, of plant origin, known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This fat, which is found in walnuts, as well as in soybeans and their derivatives, is much less studied than marine omega-3s. The researchers observed that EPA and ALA do not compete, but are complementary to each other. While high levels of EPA are associated with a lower risk of hospital readmission for cardiovascular causes, higher levels of ALA are associated with a reduced risk of death.

Antoni Bayés, clinical director of Cardiology at Germans Trias, concluded: “The incorporation of marine and vegetable omega-3s in the diet of patients at risk of cardiovascular disease is an integrative strategy to improve both their quality of life and their prognosis if they suffer a heart attack “.

While Aleix Sala, researcher at IMIM-Hospital del Mar and responsible for the blood analysis, concluded: “The article is important because it highlights the complementary (and non-competitive) effects of the two types of omega-3s”.

“Omega-3 fatty acids make an essential contribution to our health, helping to combat cardiovascular diseases such as atrial fibrillation, atherosclerosis, thrombosis, inflammation and sudden cardiac death, among others, as well as diabetes, cancer, depression, cognitive impairment related to age and various mental illnesses. In addition, they play an important role in altering the lipid profiles in the blood and the lipid composition of the membrane. They also regulate triglyceride concentrations, which allows balancing cholesterol levels in the body ” , explains the medical specialist in nutrition Virginia Busnelli, medical director of CRENYF and academic director of CEAR.

The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) include ALA, stearidonic acid (SDA), EPA, docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the specialist points out and emphasizes that “in no case is the body capable of producing themTherefore, a correct diet or the incorporation of dietary supplements to our routine become essential to acquire them “.

Omega-3 can come from animal origin (EPA and DHA) or plant origin (ALA). “In the first case, the greatest contributions are found in the liver of lean white fish such as cod and halibut, the body of fatty fish such as mackerel, menhaden and salmon, and the fat of marine mammals such as seals and whales. For its part, the second group is usually found in seeds, nuts and some vegetable oils such as chia, flax, walnuts, canola, echium, saffron, sunflower, corn and soybeans “, highlighted Busnelli.

Previous studies show that ALA is associated with benefits for cardiovascular health, but not so directly like EPA and DHA. Still, eating healthy nuts, seeds, oils, and fish can help you get a full range of these healthy fats.

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