Higher levels of omega-3s associated with better heart rate recovery, says new study

A new study published by the Fatty Acid Research Institute in conjunction with The Cooper Institute sheds some new light on how omega-3 fatty acids may support heart health.

A new study published by the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI; Sioux Falls, SD) in conjunction with The Cooper Institute sheds some new light on how omega-3 fatty acids may support heart health. In the study, researchers utilized data from Cooper Center Longitudinal Study (CCLS), specifically 13,912 healthy men and women who had preventative medical examinations at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas over a 10-year period. These examinations typically include treadmill exercise testing and measurement of the Omega-3 Index. A component of the exercise test, called “heart rate recovery,” refers to the rate at which the heartbeat slows down after maximal exercise. The faster the drop, the health the heart.

When researchers compared the heart rate recovery between patients, they discovered that there was a significant relationship between the patients’ Omega-3 Index and their heart rate recovery. When adjusted for age, maximal METS (a measure of cardiorespiratory fitness), BMI and smoking status, a two-percentage point higher Omega-3 Index was associated with a 0.35 and 0.69 bpm greater heart rate recovery in men and women, respectively. Previous studies have shown that a slow heart rate recovery is associated with increased risk of sudden cardiac death, so it makes sense that higher EPA and DHA levels have been associated with reduced risk of sudden cardiac death.

“These new findings from the CCLS harmonize with the known benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on resting heart rate and provide new clues to how these important fatty acids can preserve cardiac health,” said William Harris, PhD, co-author of the study, president of FARI, and co-inventor of the Omega-3 Index, in a press release. “These benefits on cardiac autonomic tone join other cardioprotective effects of omega-3 fatty acids, including the reduction in blood pressure, chronic inflammation and platelet aggregation, to at least partially explain why omega-3s are good for the heart. Future treatment studies should define the omega-3 intake (and Omega-3 Index) that optimizes this aspect of cardiac function.”

Reference

Farrell, SW et al. “Higher omega-3 index is associated with more rapid heart rate recovery in healthy men and women.” Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, vol. 163 (2020)