, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp 447-452

Are omega-3 fatty acids the most important nutritional modulators of coronary heart disease risk?

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Abstract

With each passing year, the evidence linking an increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) death with a chronic dietary deficiency in long-chain omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids (FAs) grows stronger. Recently, a federally mandated evidence-based review in the United States concluded that n-3 FAs, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have clear cardioprotective effects, and national and international expert panels and health organizations have begun to call for increased EPA and DHA intakes. Consumption of between 450 and 1000 mg/d is recommended for those without and with known CHD, respectively. Based on animal and isolated cell studies, these FAs were presumed to have antiarrhythmic effects. The first direct evidence for this in humans was recently published, as were new data linking low n-3 FA intakes with risk for developing atrial fibrillation. The strength of the n-3 story has now led to a proposal that blood levels of EPA plus DHA be considered a new, modifiable, and clinically relevant risk factor for death from CHD.