Recently a Danish cohort study from Aalborg found that when levels of omega-3 fatty acids were measured in an adipose biopsy taken from the buttocks of 57 053 subjects, a negative dose response was found with the risk of acute MI(6). "But there've been no trials of eating fish in healthy people because you'd need too many participants to reach a conclusion for the trial to be feasible," explained Kromhout.
The only real way to look for benefits in primary prevention, he added, is to investigate the effects on intermediate endpoints. One such study by Matthew Pase, from the NICM Centre for Study of Natural Medicines and Neurocognition, Melbourne, Australia, reviewing data from 10 clinical trials involving 550 participants, found omega-3 fatty acids reduced pulse wave velocity by an average of 33 % and arterial compliance by 48 % (7).
The mechanism of action of Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, explained Calder, can exert a variety of actions on cell physiology and function. "They're anti-inflammatory and might therefore decrease the inflammatory processes within the vessel wall, which are recognised as major contributors to atherosclerosis," he said.
Indeed, recent studies by Calder and colleagues showed that the incorporation of EPA into advanced plaques was associated with a decreased expression of various matrix metalloproteinases (MMPS), proteins which have been implicated in plaque cap thinning and increased vulnerability to rupture.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also known to have an anti-arrhythmic effect. The presence of omega-3 fatty acids in cardiomyocyte membrane phospholipids decreases electrical excitability and modulates the activity of ion channels (e.g. sodium, potassium and calcium, effects that are claimed to promote electrical stability in the cell and prevent arrhythmias. It is also known that omega-3 fatty acids are potent triglyceride
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