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Originally published August 29 2007

EPA omega-3 oils protect the heart in people with high cholesterol

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Supplementing with an omega-3 fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may lower the risk of non-fatal coronary events by 20 percent, according to a new Japanese study published in The Lancet.

Researchers followed 18,645 Japanese high-cholesterol patients for four and a half years. All the patients were already taking cholesterol medications known as statins when the study began. Over the course of the study, half of the patients were assigned a daily EPA supplement in addition to their medication, while the other half received only medication.

The group receiving the EPA supplement had a 24 percent lower occurrence of a type of chest pain known as angina pectoris, and a 19 percent lower occurrence of non-fatal coronary events. The researchers did not report any effect on mortality risk.

"Overall, this study shows that EPA, at a dose of 1,800 milligrams per day, is a very promising regimen for prevention of major coronary events," the researchers wrote. However, they cautioned that their results might not generalize to other ethnic groups.

EPAs occur naturally in fish oils, as well as spirulina and microalgae. They are only one of many types of omega-3 fatty acid.

Previous studies have linked consumption of omega-3s to improved heart health and reduced risk of cancer. Experts are still undecided, however, on the health benefits of EPAs in particular. A study recently published in the British Medical Journal examined a variety of prior studies on the subject, and found no evidence linking EPA to improved heart health.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Dariush Mozaffarian of Harvard School of Public Health praised the search for heart-healthy foods.

"Compared with drugs, invasive procedures and devices, modest dietary changes are low risk, inexpensive and widely available. We must curb our infatuation with downstream risk factors in treatments, and focus on the fundamental risk factors for cardiovascular disease: dietary habits, smoking and physical activity," Mozaffarian said.

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