Increased intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce heart rate reactivity to mental stress, a new US study suggests.
In the randomized controlled trial, 67 participants with normal blood pressure who received either a 9-gram fish oil supplement (with 1.6 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid and 1.1 grams of docosahexaenoic acid) or a placebo every day for eight weeks were submitted to a five-minute mental stress protocol both at the start of the study and eight weeks later (1). The study results showed that the participants who had taken omega-3 fatty acids had reduced increases in heart rate and muscle sympathetic nerve activity related to mental stress situations in comparison to the placebo group.
The researchers commented that the data supported and expanded the growing body of evidence that fish oil may have positive health benefits regarding neural cardiovascular control in humans. The potential efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids in reducing the ability of (long-term) psychological stress to damage health may help prevent the onset or progression of cardiovascular disease. Future studies might examine the influence of longer-term fish oil supplementation on neural cardiovascular reactivity to mental stress, with a particular focus on aged and/or diseased populations.