Research claims you don’t need fish for omega-3
New research finds that plant-based omega-3s may boost heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
A number of studies have linked omega-3 to health benefits such as a reduced risk of heart disease. But what food comes to mind as a good source of omega-3? For most of us, the answer will be fish or fish-related products. Now, new research has found that the plant-based version of the nutrient, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), can benefit heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease for those who don’t eat seafood.
The review, supported by the California Walnut Commission and published in Advances in Nutrition, found that consuming ALA that is found in plant-based foods like walnuts and flaxseeds was associated with a 10 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 20 percent reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease.
“People may not want to eat seafood for a variety of reasons, but it’s still important for them to consume omega-3s to reduce the risk of heart disease and to promote overall health,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, a dietitian and professor of Nutritional Sciences at Pennsylvania State (Penn State) University – the university behind the review. “Plant-based ALA in the form of walnuts or flaxseeds can also provide these benefits, especially when incorporated into a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.”
“When people with low levels of omega-3s in their diet ate ALA, they saw a benefit in terms of cardiovascular health,” said Jennifer Fleming, assistant teaching professor of nutrition at Penn State. “But when people with high levels of omega-3s from other sources ate more ALA, they also saw a benefit. It could be that ALA works synergistically with other omega-3s.”
The review adds that previous research has linked omega-3s with a lower risk of heart disease, but state that this conclusion was based on a large evidence base from marine-derived omega-3s, and there was less evidence for the benefits of ALA.
For the review, the researchers analysed data from previous studies to evaluate the effects of ALA on heart disease and heart disease risk factors like blood pressure and inflammation. The studies analysed included both randomised controlled trials and observational studies.
After analysing the studies, the researchers found that ALA had beneficial effects on reducing diseases such as cholesterol, high blood pressure and inflammation. This could help explain ALA’s benefits to heart health, according to Emilio Ros, investigator at Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi Sunyer, a research institution linked to Hospital Clínic of Barcelona and Barcelona University.
“We were able to find evidence supporting current dietary guidelines that ALA should provide about 0.6 percent to one percent of total energy in a day, which is about 1.1 grams a day for women and 1.6 grams a day for men,” Ros said, “and can be incorporated into the diet with foods such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and cooking oils such as canola and soybean oils. These recommendations are equal to about half an ounce of walnuts or just under one teaspoon of flaxseed oil.”
The researchers said that future studies are needed to help better understand the effects of ALA on other major chronic diseases.