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Omega-3s Linked to Lower Heart-Risking Inflammation
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Finding adds weight to prior evidence that diets rich in omega-3s may lower levels of a protein associated with inflammation and higher heart risks
by Craig Weatherby

Health authorities worldwide recommend fatty fish and fish oil to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and its adverse outcomes.

The adverse outcomes that omega-3-rich diets may help prevent include stroke and second heart attacks.

Key Points
  • Study links higher omega-3 levels to lower CRP (inflammation) levels.
  • Findings affirm prior reports linking omega-3s to reduced inflammation.
  • Not all studies find that omega-3-rich-diets lower inflammation, but most do.
  • The established biological effects of omega-3s explain why they could reduce inflammation.
Omega-3s are most closely tied to prevention of “sudden cardiac death,” which is usually caused by arrhythmias (erratic heartbeat) and accounts for half of all heart-related deaths.

In recent years, a new signal of risk for heart disease has emerged, called C-reactive protein or CRP.

Blood CRP levels rise when inflammation levels rise throughout the body. We still do not know whether CRP is simply a sign of cardiovascular disease, or if it actually plays a role in causing it.

The inflammation-heart link
Why would reducing inflammation levels help reduce the risk of heart attacks and other adverse heart events?

Inflammation promotes the buildup of arterial plaque, and it can cause the “cap” that encloses arterial plaques to rupture and release fatty clots into the bloodstream, causing a heart attack, ischemic stroke (the most common kind), or sudden cardiac death.

Annual physical exams include tests for blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and most now include a test for CRP levels as well.

A newer test, called the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) assay, can more accurately determine a person’s risk for heart disease.

High CRP levels are now considered a major independent predictor for the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and suffering an adverse cardiovascular event.

U.S. and Japanese findings set the stage for Aussie report
Findings reported in the past five years from labs in Japan and the US have linked lower levels of omega-3s to higher levels of CRP (Lopez-Garcia E et al. 2004; Niu K et al. 2006; Murakami K et al. 2008).

Last year, researchers from the University of California San Francisco compared omega-3 and CRP levels in 992 people with coronary artery disease, as part of their “Heart and Soul Study.”

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