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British Journal of Nutrition publishing Smartfish study

Omega-3-rich drink may affect omega-3 index

By Stephen Daniells, 29-Apr-2010

Consuming a convenience drink enriched with omega-3 fatty acids led to increases in blood levels of the beneficial fatty acids, and may enhance heart health, says a new study from Germany.

The heart health benefits of consuming oily fish, and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s by Jorn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. To date, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to improvements in blood lipid levels, a reduced tendency of thrombosis, blood pressure and heart rate improvements, and improved vascular function.

Despite the growth in awareness of the cardiovascular benefits of the fatty acids, not everyone finds oily fish and encapsulated concentrated derivatives of fish oils palatable, explained researchers led by Professor Clemens von Schacky from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich.

An omega-3 fortified convenience drink was tested for bioavailability of omega-3, safety and tolerability in 50 people with atherosclerotic disease. All 50 had an omega-3 index of less than 5 per cent. (the incidence of sudden cardiac death (SCD), for example, is 10 per cent lower in people with an omega-3 index of over 8 per cent, compared with an omega-3 index of less than 4 per cent, said the researchers.)

Prof von Schacky and his co-workers used the commercial product Smartfish, which containg 3.6 grams of salmon oil per drink, providing 200 mg of EPA, 300 mg of DHA, and 100 mg of DPA.

Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either the omega-3-rich convenience drink or a placebo drink containing 1.1 grams of linoleic acid from corn oil for eight weeks.

According to results published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the average omega-3 index of the Smartfish group increased from 4.37 to 6.80 per cent, but there was high inter-individual variability in the response. No change in omega-3 index was observed in the placebo group.

“Based on circumstantial evidence, the mean increase of the omega-3 index of 2·43 per cent, from 4·37 to 6·80 per cent, observed in the present study is associated with an estimated 70 per cent decrease in the risk for sudden cardiac death, and a less pronounced decrease in the risk for other cardiovascular events, such as the acute coronary syndrome,