Recent study finds relationship between omega-3 blood levels and stroke risk

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A recent pooled analysis of 29 cohorts made up of 183,291 participants found a link between omega-3 blood levels (Omega-3 Index) and stroke risk.

Photo © AdobeStock.com/Маргарита Медведева

Photo © AdobeStock.com/Маргарита Медведева

A recent pooled analysis of 29 cohorts made up of 183,291 participants found a link between omega-3 blood levels (Omega-3 Index) and stroke risk.1 Over a median of 14.3 years follow-up, of these participants there were 10,561 total strokes, 8220 ischemic strokes, and 1142 hemorrhagic strokes. Results showed that compared to participants in the first quintile of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) levels, those in the fifth quintile saw a 17% lower incidence of total stroke, and 18% lower incidence of ischemic stroke. Compared to first quintile of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), those in the fifth quintile had a 12% lower incidence of total stroke, and a 14% lower incidence of ischemic stroke.

Researchers also found that EPA and DHA levels were not associated with an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which is important because there has been some concern that omega-3s may thin the blood and therefore increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. This issue has been cited in some populations such as Greenland Inuits, whose traditional diet high in marine omega-3 fatty acids was associated with an increased mortality from hemorrhagic stroke, compared to Inuits living in Denmark. Levels would have to be exceedingly high, and the current study, found no elevated risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

“This paper confirms previous studies that found favorable relationships between omega-3 and stroke risk by including a very large number of subjects from a wide range of countries. It also gives comfort by showing that raising your omega-3 levels into the healthy zone (~8% Omega-3 Index) you do not increase your risk for clinically significant bleeding,” commented William S. Harris, PhD, in a press release. Harris is the president of the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI); founder of OmegaQuant Analytics, LLC; and Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota.

“These findings are extremely exciting because stroke is such a devastating event, drastically changing the trajectory of peoples’ lives, so finding nutritional ways to reduce risk for stroke that require no medicines is important and useful information,” Harris added. “Raising omega-3 levels into the healthy zone can be accomplished simply by eating more omega-3 rich fish and/or by taking omega-3 supplements.”

Reference

  1. O’Keefe, J.H.; Tintle, N.L.; Harris, W.S.; O’Keefe, E.L.; Sala-Vila, A.; Attia, J.; Garg, G.M.; Hure, A. Omega-3 blood levels and stroke risk: A pooled and harmonized analysis of 183 291 participants from 29 prospective studies. Stroke. 2023, 55(1): 50-58. DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.123.044281
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