Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be very beneficial for your heart health, which is why some people opt to get their daily dose in the form of a supplement if they can't get it through diet alone. However, new research suggests that not all omega-3 supplements provide health benefits for your heart.
First of all, there are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). ALA is found primarily in plant-based oils, including canola, flaxseed, and soybean, and oils, whereas DHA and EPA are found in fish and other seafood, per the National Institutes of Health.
Existing research suggests that high doses of EPA appear to lessen one's risk of major cardiovascular events, such as heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. However, the results of a recently published clinical trial revealed that those who are at high risk of cardiac events and took a supplement that contained a combination of DHA and EPA didn't experience any reduction in risk at all. The results were published in a study and presented at the virtual 2021 conference of the American College of Cardiology.
Thus, even though participants' blood levels were high in EPA (which they found to be associated with a reduced risk of experiencing a major cardiovascular event), rising DHA levels appeared to cancel out EPA's benefits.
"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," principal investigator Viet T. Le, a cardiovascular physician assistant at the institute, told Medical News Today.
"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."
For now, consider taking EPA-only supplements or sticking to foods that are naturally rich in EPA, such as salmon, canned sardines, and shellfish. For more ideas, check out the 26 Best Omega-3 Foods to Fight Inflammation and Support Heart Health.