Research subjects taking omega-3 for heart health with the highest omega-3 levels had a 13% lower risk of dying from any disease than those with the lowest omega-3 levels
There is a sizable body of research regarding the connection between omega-3 for heart health and and warding off cardiovascular disease (CVD), as well as strokes, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease (CHD).
In fact, this research has translated into booming business for companies selling omega-3 products. One recent marketing survey stated that the global omega-3 market was USD$ 2.5 billion in 2019 and was expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 7.7% between 2020 and 2027.1 Furthermore, the report forecasted an increase in omega-3 use by consumers for treating a number of health issues other than those related to the cardiovascular system, including depression, bone loss and menstrual issues.1
Given the increasing focus on omega-3 for heart health regarding treatment of chronic health issues, it would seem logical to also consider the effect of omega-3 on overall longevity, particularly given that many of the conditions omega-3 benefits are common among the elderly. A new paper from the journal Nature Communications examined the relationship between omega-3 and longevity, in terms of risk for early death, regardless of disease. Let’s look at previous studies regarding the effect of omega-3 on the risk of coronary-related death, as well as this latest research.
Omega-3 for heart health: avoiding coronary-related death
A 2019 meta-analysis paper in the Journal of the American Heart Association pooled together the results from 13 randomized controlled trials reporting on potential reduction in risks for myocardial infarction, CHD, CVD, stroke, major vascular events, and CHD-related and CVD-related deaths. In looking for similarities among all the studies, the researchers found that study subjects taking omega-3 for heart health had a significantly reduced risk of death related to either CHD or CVD.2
A similar paper from 2016, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, pooled results from 19 observational studies examining blood levels of omega-3 and their relationship to CHD-related death.3 The shared results among all the studies showed that higher blood levels of omega-3 were associated with a lower risk for CHD-associated death.3
Omega-3 and risk for all-cause mortality
In contrast to earlier research showing the positive effect of omega-3 on risk of deaths related to coronary or cardiovascular events or disease, this new meta-analysis paper from Nature Communications instead looked at the effect of omega-3 on risk of death from all causes.4 The paper pooled together the results from 17 different groups of patients, which included more than 42,000 study subjects, who were followed for an average of 16 years.
During the course of those 16 years, 15,720 study subjects died. Their medical records showed that those with the highest omega-3 levels had a 13% lower risk for dying from any disease than those with the lowest omega-3 levels.4 Furthermore, those with the highest omega-3 levels also had a 15% lower risk for dying from CVD and an 11% lower risk for dying from cancer.4 This led the researchers to conclude that higher blood levels of omega-3 were associated with a lower risk of premature death, regardless of the cause.
As a general rule, your patients who are at risk for any type of cardiovascular or coronary event should be taking omega-3 for heart health. Now, as a result of this latest research, it also appears to be a good idea to recommend omega-3 to all your senior patients, regardless of cardiovascular or coronary risk category.
- Omega 3 Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Type (EPA, DHA, ALA), By Source (Marine Source, Plant Source), By Application, By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2020 – 2027. Grand View Research. April 2020.
- Hu Y, Hu FB, Manson JE. Marine omega-3 supplementation and cardiovascular disease: An updated meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials involving 127,477 participants. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2019;8(19):e013543.
- Del Gobbo LC, Imamura F, Aslibekyan S, et al.; Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) Fatty Acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCe). ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid biomarkers and coronary heart disease: Pooling project of 19 cohort studies. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2016 Aug 1;176(8):1155-1166. Erratum in: JAMA Internal Medicine. 2016 Nov 1;176(11):1727-1728.
- Harris WS, Tintle NL, Imamura F, et al. Blood n-3 fatty acid levels and total and cause-specific mortality from 17 prospective studies. Nature Communications. 2021;12(1):2329.