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Essential fatty acids may be more beneficial for heart health in men

December 19, 2011

Regular supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid may be more effective in preventing heart attacks in men than in women, a new Australian study says.

In the randomized controlled trial, 15 healthy men and 15 healthy women with an average age of 44 were assigned to receive either a single dose of 1 gram of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA:DHA 5:1), 1 gram of doco-sahexaenoic acid (EPA:DHA 1:5) or a placebo (sunflower oil) (1). The study results showed that both the EPA and DHA groups had decreased platelet aggregation 24 hours after the dose was ingested, with a reduction of 13.3% and 11.9%, respectively, in comparison to the placebo. Reductions in both microparticles (20%) and platelet aggregation decreased only in the men of the EPA group. Women in the EPA group only displayed reduced platelet aggregation.

The researchers concluded that supplementation with EPA but not DHA inhibits platelet microparticle activity in conjunction with a reduction in platelet aggregation in a gender-specific manner. This may reduce the risk of generating blood clots, which can lead to stroke, heart attack, or add to the risk of cardiovascular and thrombotic diseases (as indicated by mircoparticles, a reliable marker of so-called platelet hyperactivity). The mechanism by which the omega-3 fatty acids affect platelet aggregation and microparticles would not be clear, the scientists said.

The study adds to the growing body of science supporting the potential cardiovascular health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, linking them to improvements in blood lipid levels, blood pressure, heart rate and vascular function, as well as to a reduced tendency of thrombosis.

References

  1. Phang M. et al. Acute supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid reduces platelet microparticle activity in healthy subjects. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Published online December 2011.