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Omega 3 fatty acids may reduce risk of certain chronic diseases

by Deesha Patel


Increased omega-3 intake has been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and possibly cancer and type 2 diabetes. The most beneficial parts of omega-3 are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexonic acid (DHA). Previous research has suggested that EPA and DHA play a role in regulating inflammation, reducing triglyceride levels (chemical form of fat in food and the body), decreasing LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), and increasing HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). 

Researchers decided to observe high intake of EPA and DHA, and the effect that it would have on indicators of chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease. The study population consisted of Yup’ik Eskimos from Alaska because they have much higher intakes of EPA and DHA than the general U.S. population due to a diet abundant in fish. Blood samples, as well as food records, were collected. Blood samples were analyzed for measurements of EPA, DHA, triglycerides, total cholesterol,  LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and apolipoprotein A1 (a protein component found in HDL).

The researchers found that the high levels of EPA and DHA were associated with decreased levels of triglycerides, as well as increased levels of HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein A1. However, associations for LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol were mixed. As DHA measurements increased, so did the measurements for LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. The latter was similar for EPA levels as well, except LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol leveled off after a certain point.

Nonetheless, the researchers concluded that increasing EPA and DHA intake would be beneficial in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. This conclusion was supported by the fact that Yup’ik Eskimos have high intakes of EPA and DHA and a relatively low prevalence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The researchers did not suggest a particular dosage of EPA or DHA. However, they did mention the average amount of EPA and DHA intake for Yup’ik Eskimos: 3,700 grams per day for men and 2,400 grams per day for women. These amounts are consistent with the recommendation from the American Heart Association of 2,000 to 4,000 grams per day for those with elevated triglycerides.




1. Makhoul Z, Kristal AR, Gulati R, Luick B, Bersamin A, Boyer B, Mohatt GV. Associations of very high intakes of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids with biomarkers of chronic disease risk among Yup’ik Eskimos. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91.

2. MedicineNet. Definition of Apolipoprotein A-I. 2004. Available at http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=25108.

3. American Heart Association. Frequently Asked Questions about Fish. May 21, 2010. Available at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/General/Frequently-Asked-Questions-About-Fish_UCM_306451_Article.jsp.

This article was published on Saturday December 04, 2010.
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