Doctors often recommend Omega-3s to help patients reduce their cholesterol and enhance heart health. Those Omega-3s can come from fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon, or supplements which often have a combination of amino acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Now, new research from the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute At Salt Lake City discovers that high EPA blood levels independently reduced the risk of major coronary events and death in patients, while DHA blunted the cardiovascular benefits of EPA. Higher DHA levels at any given degree of EPA, worsened health outcomes.
Results of the Intermountain analysis, which examined nearly 1,000 Patients over a 10-year-period, was shown virtually at the 2021 American College of Cardiology’s Scientific Session.
“The advice to take Omega-3s for the good of your heart is pervasive, but previous studies have shown that science doesn’t really back this up for every single omega-3,” said Viet T. Le, MPAS, PA, researcher and cardiovascular physician assistant at the Intermountain Heart Institute and principal investigator of the study. “Our findings show that not all Omega-3s are alike, and that EPA and DHA combined together, as they often are in supplements, may void the benefits that patients and their doctors hope to achieve.”
In this study, Intermountain researchers utilized the INSPIRE registry, An Intermountain Healthcare database started in 1993 that has more than 35,000 blood samples from nearly 25,000 patients.
Through INSPIRE, researchers identified 987 patients that underwent their first recorded coronary angiographic study at Intermountain Healthcare between 1994 and 2012. From these blood samples, the circulating levels in their blood was measured. Researchers then tracked those patients for 10 years, searching for major cardiac adverse events, which included heart attack, stroke, heart failure requiring hospitalization or death.
They found that individuals with the greatest levels of EPA had decreased risk of major heart events. When evaluating how EPA and DHA affect one another, they discovered that higher DHA blunts the advantage of EPA. Specifically, they also found that those patients with greater amounts of DHA than EPA, were more at risk for heart issues.
Le reported that these results raise further concerns regarding the use of joint EPA/DHA, especially through supplements.
“Based on these and other findings, we can still tell our patients to eat Omega-3 rich foods, but we should not be recommending them in pill form as supplements or even as combined (EPA + DHA) prescription products,” he said. “Our data adds further strength to the findings of the recent REDUCE-IT (2018) study that EPA-only prescription products reduce heart disease events.”