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Does Omega-3 Work?

Does Omega-3 Work for Heart Health?

Two omega-3 fatty acids -- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) -- can help treat high triglycerides (known medically as hypertriglyceridemia). The other omega-3 fatty acid, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), does not seem to have this effect. In fact, it may actually increase triglycerides. An adequate DHA and EPA dosage may decrease triglyceride levels by as much as 25 to 30 percent (with lower dosages being less effective). Since it takes a rather high dose to treat high triglycerides, omega-3 supplements should be used in this way only under the supervision of a healthcare provider. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends omega-3 fatty acids for this use.
Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may prevent cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks and strokes). In people who have already had a heart attack, omega-3 may decrease the risk of another heart attack and may also lower the risk of death from repeat heart attacks or other causes. In addition, taking fish oil, which contains EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. after an angioplasty procedure or bypass surgery might help keep the blood vessels from closing back up. The AHA recommends DHA and EPA omega-3 supplements be taken under a healthcare provider's supervision for people with documented heart disease, particularly in people who cannot get enough fish through dietary sources.
DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids tend to modestly lower blood pressure, a beneficial attribute, since high blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for heart disease. Some researchers think that omega-3 fatty acids may also help treat certain irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), but the evidence at this point is inconclusive.

Does Omega-3 Improve Mental Health?

Researchers have noticed that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids but low in omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of depression or other mental health problems. The typical American diet fits this description, with a low intake of fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Early studies suggest that taking fish oil may help antidepressants work better and that fish may improve bipolar disorder symptoms. However, fish oil seems to be helpful only for the depression symptoms (not mania symptoms) of bipolar disorder and may actually increase the risk of mania symptoms.
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Omega-3 Supplements

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