Omega-3s can lower the risk of stroke - Blog
You’ve heard us say many times that omega-3 fatty acids are essential dietary nutrients for optimum health and graceful aging. You probably already know, too, that circulating omega-3s help to reduce chronic inflammation – which is at the root of most degenerative diseases – as well as the stiffness, aches and pains that tend to increase as you age.
It’s also pretty well established that omega-3, especially the kind derived from marine animals, is good for your brain and memory. But did you know that high omegs-3 levels in your blood have been shown to significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke?
Specifically, two studies published in 2017 showed a direct link between omega-3 levels in the blood and the risk of suffering ischaemic stroke. There are two main types of stroke, ischaemic stroke, which results from lack of blood flow to the brain (the most common kind), and haemorrhagic, which results from bleeding in the brain (rarer).
A major human study by the Detroit School of Medicine compared incidences of stroke to levels of omega-3 fatty acids, in three large US cohorts, including CHS (Cardiovascular Health Study), NHS (Nurses’ Health Study), and HPFS (Health Professionals Follow-Up Study). Data was collected over 8-11 years, and used to measure circulating phospholipid fatty acids at the beginning of the study and at regular intervals. The trial did not involve administering supplemental omega-3, but rather observing changes in the levels of circulating omega-3 fatty acids over time and the effect this appeared to have on the incidence of strokes. They separately measured three types of omega-3: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The aim of the study was to determine whether there is a relationship between circulating omega-3s and risk of ischemic stroke. Higher circulating levels of DHA were inversely associated with atherothrombotic stroke and DPA with cardioembolic stroke (two types of ischemic stroke). This suggested to researchers that there are specific areas of benefit for the different types of omega-3.
A Scottish review of 15 animal trials testing the effects of one type of omega-3, DHA, to treat acute ischaemic stroke. The trials included in the review measured mortality, infarct volume (tissue death) and neurobehavioural score. Across trials, DHA reduced infarct volumes by 48 percent compared to control treatments, and mortality by 61 percent. Neurobehavioural score was improved by 34.8 percent. The review concluded that current evidence suggests DHA significantly improves outcomes and decreases mortality in animal models of acute ischaemic stroke, providing support for further studies. DHA is one of the two types of omega-3s in Lester’s Oil®.
Effectiveness of omega-3 supplementation
Taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement, such as About Health’s Lester’s Oil®, has been shown to be effective in increasing your circulating omega-3 levels.
A study into the effectiveness of omega-3 supplementation was conducted last year in the US, where 96% of people have sub-optimal* levels of circulating omega-3 fatty acids, according to researchers. The study used workplace wellness screenings to record omega-3 levels, in 636 employees across 16 different sites, at the start of the study and again three months later. The study did not administer omega-3 supplements. Three types of omega-3 fatty acid were measured (EPA, DPA and DHA), and researchers also recorded participants’ supplement use and dietary intake of omega-3s. Some participants, after getting a low initial reading, took measures to increase their omega-3 intake, and this was recorded. Interestingly, males had lower overall omega-3 levels than females, and those that reported regular consumption of fatty fish and use of omega-3 dietary supplements had higher whole blood concentrations of EPA and DHA. Total EPA and DHA intake were significantly higher in dietary supplement users.
This is backed up by an independent trial in 2014, which tested Lester’s Oil itself, and showed a 59% increase in participants’ omega-3 index in just four weeks. A second human trial is currently underway, so watch this space!
Okay, so taking a supplement increases your omega-3 levels, but how does that help?
The omega-3 index measures omega-3s (EPA+DHA) as a percentage of the total fatty acids in your red blood cells, and is generally acknowledged by health professionals as a predictor of cardiovascular health. A multitude of scientific research has found that a low Omega-3 Index is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and suggests that raising this index could help to reduce the risk. According to the Index, less than 4% means you are deficient, the range of 4-8% is normal (intermediate risk of heart disease), and anything over 8% is considered optimal (low risk).