Consuming EPA and DHA omega-3 produces a “desirable” Omega-3 Index score and also reduces your risk of heart disease
06/28/2019 // Ralph Flores // Views

Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most studied nutrients on the planet, and for good reason: Nearly every part of the body can benefit from these fatty acids.

The American Heart Association (AHA), in fact, recommends eating at least two seafood meals a week for its omega-3 benefit of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, a study published in the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids said that these servings aren’t enough. According to researchers from Penn State University, consuming at last three fish servings and taking an EPA+DHA supplement can increase the likelihood of getting the cardioprotective benefit of the fatty acid.

In the study, the team used a tool called the Omega-3 Index test to measure omega-3 levels in the blood. The scientists noted that an index score between eight to 12 percent is “desirable,” as the range is associated with improved heart and brain health. The team then conducted two cross-sectional studies to determine how much fish or supplement a person should consume to reach this range. In the first study, the researchers asked 28 participants on their fish and omega-3 intake using both a single fish-intake question and triple-pass 24-hour dietary recall (24HR) survey. The 24HR is an interview designed to capture detailed information about foods and beverages – including dietary supplements – that a respondent has consumed in the past 24 hours. For the second study, they used de-identified data – or information that was processed to remove traceable information for a dataset – from around 3,500 adults who tested themselves for their omega-3 indexes and answered questions about their fish intake and supplement use.


The findings revealed that the participants who reported eating an average of three fish meals a week had an average omega-3 index of 8.1 percent. In contrast, those who reported no fish intake and omega-3 supplementation had an index score of about 4.1 percent. This percentage reflects the average diet of most Americans and is considered deficient. According to the researchers, this meant that the current AHA recommendation is unlikely to produce the cardioprotective benefits associated with taking omega-3.

“To achieve that, either adding an EPA+DHA supplement or increasing to 4–5 servings of oily fish per week would be necessary,” they wrote in their report.

Omega-3 fatty acids provide the heart with long-term benefits

Omega-3 fatty acids are linked to an array of health benefits. For instance, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are beneficial to anyone, no matter the age. The two are associated with proper fetal development and healthy aging. They are also associated with the prevention of chronic diseases, chief of which is cardiovascular disease.

In their article that appeared in the journal Advances in Nutrition, researchers from the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences noted that EPA and DHA are linked to a decreased likelihood of cardiovascular disease. EPA supplementation, in particular, led to decreased plaque inflammation. The researchers proffered that decreased plaque inflammation reduced the risk of peripheral arterial disease, where plaque builds up on the arteries of the leg and can cause a complete blockage.

The researchers also reviewed earlier studies that investigated the therapeutic effect of EPA and DHA against biomarkers for cardiovascular disease. They found that EPA and DHA decreased the expression of genes involved in inflammatory and atherogenesis-related pathways. The two proteins were also linked to reduced levels of C-reactive protein, a hallmark of increased cardiovascular events.

These fatty acids don't just do an excellent job of protecting a person from heart disease: Studies showed that consuming omega-3 fatty acids can still maintain heart health, even after a heart attack.

Learn more benefits from omega-3 fatty acids for your heart at

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