Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are long-chained omega-3 fats found in cold-water fatty fish like wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and certain other sea creatures, including krill.
Along with vitamin D testing, measuring your omega-3 level at least once a year is strongly recommended, as being low in this vital nutrient can spell trouble for your health in more ways than one.
One of the reasons why DHA and EPA are so crucial is because they’re actually key structural elements of cells; they’re not just simple fuel. If you don’t have enough DHA and EPA, your body’s ability to repair and maintain healthy cell structures is seriously impaired.
Marine-Based Omega-3 Protects Heart Health
Marine-based omega-3 is particularly important for your heart health. According to a 2016 analysis1,2 of 19 studies, higher blood levels of DHA were found to lower the risk of a fatal heart attack by 10%. This effect held true even after accounting for confounding factors like age, sex, ethnicity, diabetes and use of aspirin or cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Studies have also shown that, when taken after a heart attack, omega-3 fats can significantly improve your odds of survival.3 A large Italian trial4 found that heart attack survivors who took 1 gram of omega-3 fat per day for 3.5 years had a “clinically important and statistically significant” reduction in the risk for death, nonfatal heart attack and stroke. Animal-based omega-3 fats, especially DHA, protect and support your cardiovascular health by:5
- Lowering blood pressure and improving endothelial function
- Counteracting or preventing cardiac arrhythmia
- Lowering triglyceride concentrations
- Helping prevent thrombosis (a blood clot within a blood vessel) by decreasing platelet aggregation
- Counteracting inflammation
Most recently, results from five years of study by The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), the VITAL study (which is looking at both omega-3 and vitamin D) show fish oil supplementation lowers your risk for heart attack.6,7 Results8 were presented at the September 25 through 28, 2019, NAMS meeting in Chicago. Contemporary Clinic reported the results, noting:9
“People with dietary fish intake below the cohort median of 1.5 servings per week saw the greatest treatment benefit. Meanwhile, participants whose intake was above that level did not see as much as a benefit.”
Nutrient Requirements Could Be Met by Local Fish Catches
An interesting study10,11,12 published September 25, 2019, suggests fish is an excellent source of a variety of nutrients, including iron and zinc, and that many micronutrient deficiencies could be resolved by retaining more of the local fish catches in any given area rather than exporting them.
As reported in a press release,13 the data “showed important nutrients were readily available in the fish already being caught but they were not reaching many local populations, who were often most in need.”
In most areas of the world, a majority of fish is caught by international companies and subsequently sold to other, typically more affluent, nations, while locals often end up forgoing their native diets for processed food. As reported by SciDev.net, 90% of the fish caught in Mauritania is caught by foreign fishing fleets and never enters the local market.
In other areas, such as Namibia, even though a majority of the fishing fleets are locally owned, the fish is still exported. Edward Allison, professor at the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs told SciDev.net,14 “These transformed diets suck fish towards the mouths of the better-off, meaning that not everyone who might benefit from consuming fish gets to eat it.”