Prevention Research Center In the Department of Medicine

Potential Health Benefits of Plant vs. Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A large and growing body of literature has suggested that omega-3 fatty acids (a specific type of dietary polyunsaturated fat) may be protective against cardiovascular disease. There are two main sources of omega-3 fatty acids: marine sources (fatty fish) provide EPA and DHA, and plant food sources (flax, walnuts, canola oil) provide ALA. These are also widely available and popular dietary supplements. Whether plant sources or marine sources confer similar benefits is still controversial. In addition, there is no consensus on the optimal doses from different sources.

Omega-3 fatty acids have shown to lower the levels of blood triglycerides and inflammatory markers. These tend to be elevated in people with insulin resistance, who are likely to especially benefit from taking omega-3 fatty acids. The aim of the Omega-3 Study is to investigate the potential health benefits of EPA/DHA vs. ALA. Each supplement is provided in a low and a high dose.

100 middle-aged, mostly Caucasian, generally healthy adults were enrolled in this study. After 8 weeks, neither the groups randomized to the marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids nor the groups randomized to the plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids had detectable decreases in blood concentrations of three inflammatory markers (IL-6, sICAM-1 and MCP-1). To learn more about the details of the study, ready the Paper published in The Journal of Nutrition.

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