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Omega-3 fatty acids from algae may reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors

December 2, 2011

According to a new US review, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation from algal oil may reduce blood triglycerides and increase HDL-cholesterol in persons without coronary heart disease.

Based on a systematic review of 11 randomized controlled trials with 485 healthy participants, researchers performed a meta-analysis of the association between algae-derived docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation (median dose: 1.68 g/day) and changes in the concentrations of cardiovascular disease risk factors such as triglycerides, LDL - cholesterol and HDL - cholesterol (1). The analysis showed that DHA supplementation significantly decreased serum triglycerides and significantly increased both HDL- and LDL- cholesterol.

The researchers concluded that DHA supplementation from algal oil may reduce cardiovascular disease risk by decreasing the triglyceride level and increasing the serum HDL- cholesterol concentration in persons without coronary heart disease. The net effect of supplementation on serum lipoproteins and lipids may be beneficial despite the increase in LDL- cholesterol.

Consumption of fatty fish, high in omega-3 fatty acids, is recommended for healthy persons and those with high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and coronary heart disease (2–5). There may also be benefit for persons with heart failure (6). In the wild, fish accumulate omega-3 fatty acids by consuming marine algae. Recently, algae have been cultivated to preferentially produce DHA and their oil has been extracted to make supplements.

References

  1. Bernstein A. M. et al. A Meta-Analysis Shows That Docosahexaenoic Acid from Algal Oil Reduces Serum Triglycerides and Increases HDL- Cholesterol and LDL- Cholesterol in Persons without Coronary Heart Disease. Journal of Nutrition. Published online November 2011.

  2. USDA. 2005 Dietary Guidelines. Available from: http://www.mypyramid.gov/guidelines/index.html.
  3.  Sacks F. M. and Campos H. Dietary therapy in hypertension. N Engl J Med. 2010; 362:2102–2112.

  4. Kris-Etherton P. M. et al. Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2002; 106:2747–2757.

  5. Lee J. H. et al. Omega-3 fatty acids for cardioprotection. Mayo Clin Proc. 2008; 83:324–332.

  6. Lavie C. J. et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and cardiovascular diseases. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2009; 54:585–594.