SALT LAKE CITY — A study published online Friday shows that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA — commonly found in fatty fish and fish oil supplements — are as effective, if not more effective, in lowering blood pressure as some of the commonly recommended lifestyle changes like increasing physical activity and restricting alcohol and sodium intake. The findings, released by the American Journal of Hypertension, are good news, especially for those with elevated blood pressure.
The study was funded by the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), which has submitted an authorized health claim petition to the Food and Drug Administration based on these results.
"Results from this study build on a wealth of prior data indicating that EPA+DHA intake reduced the risk of cardiovascular events," stated Adam Ismail, executive director of GOED. “It is now well-established that EPA and DHA reduce triglycerides and blood pressure and even highly critical meta-analyses have found that they reduce cardiac death risk by 9%."
The study, a comprehensive meta-analysis, examined 70 randomized controlled trials, conducted with adults who were given EPA+DHA omega-3s from seafood, fortified foods or dietary supplements. The study included trials with subjects with normal blood pressure and those with hypertension but not taking blood pressure-lowering medications.
The most significant effects were observed in subjects with existing high blood pressure. Among those with high blood pressure, the average decrease in systolic blood pressure was 4.51 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure was reduced by an average 3.05 mm Hg.
“When measuring blood pressure, even small reductions can have a significant clinical impact,” stated Dominik Alexander, senior author of the study. According to Stamler, each 2 mm Hg reduction reduces stroke mortality by 6%, coronary heart disease mortality by 4% and total mortality by 3%.
Alexander noted that a decrease in SBP of 1.25 mm Hg could prevent a pre-hypertensive from becoming hypertensive. “A decrease of 4.51 mm Hg in SBP among those with high blood pressure could help an individual avoid having to take medication to control blood pressure levels,” he added.