A new study may provide an explanation to why people who eat a lot of fish in some parts of the world have a healthier heart. A group of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that omega 3 fatty acids help the heart heal after a heart attack.
In their study, researchers analyzed data on 360 patients’ hearts, who had just had a heart attack, through state-of-the-art imaging techniques. The team had access to detailed views of the changes in the heart after a major cardiac event.
- Study participants were divided into two groups.
- One group took 4 grams of omega 3 while the other was given a placebo for about half a year.
- Study authors explained that 4 grams is a relatively high intake as a normal salmon portion contains no more than 1 gram of omega 3.
Patients agreed to have their hearts checked via MRI every two months. Researchers noted that after a heart attack parts of the heart muscle are starved of oxygen. Those parts normally never manage to recover.
As a result, healthy parts of the heart muscle have to do the work of compromised parts, which puts an additional strain on an already weakened heart. In time, the overworking can result in scar tissue which can affect the normal functioning of the healthier parts of the organ.
Lead author of the study Dr. Raymond Kwong and his fellow researchers found that patients who took the high dose of omega 3 (4 grams) saw their risk of heart decline shrink by 6 percent as compared with the placebo group.
Moreover, participants whose bodies managed to better absorb the fatty acids and thus had higher levels of omega 3 in their blood were 13 percent less likely to be affected by scar tissue than their peers with lower levels.
The results remained consistent even after the team adjusted the findings for other factors that may influence the outcomes such as heart medication, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and blood pressure treatments.
Kwong wrote in a research paper that omega 3 seems to lower the risk of scarring in healthy heart tissue.
What’s more, the study also revealed lower levels of inflammation in volunteers who took omega 3 supplements. Researchers believe that this may be a sign that the recently-documented health benefits may be tied to the fatty acids’ ability to lower inflammation after a heart attack.
The study was recently published in the journal Circulation.
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