If you’re trying to improve your heart health, chances are you’re doing things like moving more and eating better. Making sure your diet delivers heart-healthy nutrients, including healthy fats, is a smart strategy. A new study from Mayo Clinic Proceedings provides more evidence on why certain fats — namely EPA and DHA omega-3s — are so important, and why you probably need to be getting even more than you think.
What are EPA and DHA omega-3s?
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the two most beneficial omega-3 fats. EPA and DHA are found in marine foods like fish (primarily fatty fish such as salmon, mussels, anchovies and sardines) and are important for overall health, including heart, brain and eye health throughout life; during pregnancy for both mom and her growing baby; and for brain and eye development in infants.
While most Americans know what omega-3s are, 95% are not getting enough EPA and DHA omega-3s in their diets. The body doesn’t make enough EPA and DHA on its own, so they must be obtained from the foods you eat and supplements you take.
New study shows the impact of EPA and DHA on heart health
The omega-3 research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings is the most comprehensive analysis to date on EPA and DHA dosage and its role in cardiovascular prevention, with a review of 40 clinical trials. The authors conclude that EPA and DHA omega-3s are associated with reduced risk of coronary heart disease, the number one cause of death for Americans, and reduced risk of heart attack, including fatal heart attack.
“The evidence continues to support the notion that EPA and DHA intake contribute to cardioprotection, and that whatever you may be getting through the diet, you likely need even more,” said Dr. Carl “Chip” Lavie, a cardiologist and one of the authors of the study.
One of the more striking findings in the study is that benefits appear to increase with dosage. For example, an extra 1,000 milligrams per day of EPA and DHA decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack even more. (Note: Study results included dosages up to 5,500 milligrams.)
“People should consider the benefits of omega-3 supplements, at doses of 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day — far higher than what is typical, even among people who regularly eat fish,” added Lavie.
“Taking omega-3 supplements is a relatively low-cost, high-impact way to improve heart health with few associated risks.”
How to boost your EPA and DHA intake
The average intake of EPA and DHA omega-3s in the U.S. is about 100 mg per day, far below the recommended amount of 1,000 mg per day supported by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings paper.
To get more EPA and DHA omega-3s:
- Increase the amount of fatty fish in your diet. Most Americans eat only half the recommended eight ounces per week.
- Consider an omega-3 supplement. In addition to eating healthy fish, a daily omega-3 supplement helps you maintain your EPA and DHA levels.
- Add some omega-3 fortified foods to the mix. While most foods fortified with EPA and/or DHA usually offer a small amount per serving, every little bit helps.
Look for a quality supplement
Omega-3 supplements are like an insurance policy for your heart, brain and eyes, especially if you’re not eating enough fatty fish each week. When choosing a supplement, read the “Supplement Facts” panel on the packaging for the amount of EPA and DHA per serving, and how much you need to take to get a full serving. Also visit AlwaysOmega3s.com/GOEDQuality, which includes a list of companies that are members of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) and adhere to strict quality standards for their products.
Talk to your healthcare provider for specific advice and recommendations for your diet and about getting more EPA and DHA omega-3s. You can even get your omega-3 levels measured by your clinician, or by doing a simple finger-prick test at home.
For more information about EPA and DHA omega-3s, visit AlwaysOmega3s.com.