How do Omega-3s support heart health?
The heart is a complex organ that powers a complex system: blood, arteries, rhythms, and electrical signals are just a few of its many mechanisms. What’s more, your diet, your lifestyle, and your genetics can all impact how efficiently your heart functions throughout your life.
So what can we do to support heart health? What role do Omega-3s, an essential nutrient, play in overall heart health?
To help you make the best choice for your heart, this blog will explain:
- What are Omega-3s?
- The benefits of Omega-3s for heart health
- How much Omega-3s should I take for heart health?
- What are the best sources of Omega-3s?
What are Omega-3s?
Omega-3s are a group of essential fatty acids that come with numerous health benefits for your heart, your brain, your joints, and more. As impactful as they are, your body can’t actually produce Omega-3s on its own. Instead, you’ll have to ingest them—whether through your diet or through supplements—to get this essential nutrient.
There are three types of Omega-3s to look out for:
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the most common Omega-3 found in food. While it is true that your body can convert it into the more impactful EPA and DHA forms of Omega-3, this conversion is inefficient. Even if you’re consuming ALAs, you may not be getting enough Omega-3s, so it’s important to also look for foods and supplements that contain EPA and DHA.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a long-chain Omega-3, is usually found in seafood like fish. Its primary function is to produce eicosanoids, which are chemicals that combat inflammation, but it can also be converted into DHA in the liver.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is also found in fish, but meat, eggs, and dairy also contain some DHA. This is a critical Omega-3 for your body because it contributes to the strength and health of cell membrane functioning, and it’s also the type of Omega-3 fatty acid that is most effective at increasing your overall Omega-3 index.
Key benefits of Omega-3s for heart health
Your heart will beat about 2.5 billion times in your lifetime, pushing millions of gallons of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body. In this way, your heart supports just about every single function that gives your body life, from circulating the air you breathe to bolstering your immune system.
Studies have shown that Omega-3s may have a part to play in all of those processes because they interact with your heart’s components—like its rhythm, blood pressure, and arteries—all of which may support better heart health.
Omega-3s support normal triglyceride levels
Triglycerides and cholesterol are fats (lipids) that move through the blood. Good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) helps your body build cell walls, support tissue growth, and more.
Studies over the years have focused on the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids on cardiovascular health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in its enforcement discretion allows companies marketing Omega-3 products to make the following claim: research is supportive, not conclusive, that consuming EPA and DHA Omega-3s may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
A 2015 meta-analysis of 1,341 studies and 38 clinical intervention studies showed just how impactful Omega-3s may be on triglyceride levels. Data from across these studies showed that Omega-3s help support normal triglycerides level, which also helps support cardiovascular health.
That said, these studies encompassed a wide range of dosages, length of supplementation, and participating individuals, so it’s important still to consult with your doctor when deciding to start a new supplement regimen.
Omega-3s may support healthy blood pressure
Your blood pressure has two parts—systolic and diastolic—and is typically read as one number over another number, e.g. 120/80. Systolic (the upper number in a blood pressure reading) describes how much pressure your blood puts on your artery walls every time your heart beats. Diastolic (the lower number) describes how much pressure your blood puts on your artery walls between beats.
A meta-analysis reviewed all of the research about the connection between Omega-3s and blood pressure over a two-year period. The research suggests that taking a combination of EPA and DHA Omega-3s helps support healthy blood pressure levels, an important part of keeping the heart healthy. Consuming EPA and DHA combined may help lower blood pressure in the general population and reduce the risk of hypertension. However, FDA has concluded that the evidence is inconsistent and inconclusive.
Omega-3s may support healthy heart rhythms
Electrical signals tell your heart when to beat. Several studies have shown that Omega-3s can help support normal heart rhythm, another key to good heart health.
When someone consumes Omega-3s, their cellular membranes become more fluid, and L-type calcium channels are reduced. This mechanism may help support normal heart rhythm and contribute to overall heart health.
How much Omega-3s should I take for heart health?
Unlike nutrients like Vitamin C, there is currently no established daily value for Omega-3s.
That said, the National Institute of Health suggests consuming 1.1-1.6 grams of Omega-3s per day, while the American Heart Association and U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that a healthy diet should include two, three to four-ounce servings of fish per week. Kori Krill Oil is packed with 250 mg of essential EPA and DHA Omega-3s, the equivalent to the U.S. Dietary guidelines, in a pill that’s easy to take.
Whether you opt for seafood or supplements, consult with your doctor about which dosage is best for you and your heart.
Sources of Omega-3 fatty acids
Your diet and supplements are both effective sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Incorporating Omega-3-rich foods into your diet is the best way to get the nutrients you need, but supplementing can give you the peace of mind that you’re getting Omega-3s to support heart health.
Common food sources of Omega-3s include:
Fish and shellfish: These are the only food sources of DHA and EPA, both of which are essential.
Nuts and seeds and nut oils: These are common plant-based sources. While they are rich with ALAs, they don’t usually provide enough Omega-3s to get the amount of EPA and DHA you need.
Fortified foods: Omega-3s are added to these foods. Be sure to read the labels to see which Omega-3s each food source has and how much, since fortified foods don’t always have adequate amounts of EPA and DHA.
Common Omega-3 supplements:
Fish oil: This is the most common Omega-3 on the market. While its heart health benefits are well-documented, it can spell trouble for your gastrointestinal system.
Krill oil: Like fish oil, krill oil is high in Omega-3s. Unlike fish oil, its Omega-3s are in their most natural form (phospholipids) which are easier for your body to absorb. It also contains essential choline and the antioxidant astaxanthin and are more sustainable.
Algae oil: Many vegetarians and vegans rely on algae oil for their Omega-3 fix. It’s an effective, plant-based form that’s grown in popularity in recent years. Many algae supplements don’t contain EPA, so be sure to read the labels of any product you’re considering.
Give your heart some love with Omega-3s
If you’re looking to give your heart a boost, Omega-3s may be the charge it needs. Add Omega-3-rich foods into your diet, or add a supplement to know exactly what Omega-3s you’re getting. We’re here to help your heart beat at its best.