Cardiovascular disease is especially prevalent in those with diabetes and pre-diabetes metabolic syndrome making the anti-clotting properties of omega-3 even more important in this group.
An important heart health benefit of omega-3 fish oil is its ability to reduce clotting of the blood. Decreased blood clotting has been associated with preventing heart attack and stroke. This is the basis of the recommendation for taking a baby aspirin daily to “thin the blood.” Actually aspirin doesn’t “thin” the blood, but it does reduce the ability of the clotting cells of the blood, known as platelets, to produce blood clots.
A recent study in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry used 30 healthy men and women and showed that supplementation with both EPA and DHA reduced platelet aggregation 24 hours after the supplements were taken, however only EPA supplementation produced a significant (19.4%) decrease in the activity of clot producing microparticles, particularly in men. Platelets, on activation, release particles with pro-coagulant clotting activity called platelet microparticles. Such microparticles are reported to be a reliable marker of so-called platelet hyperactivity that is linked to the risk of cardiovascular and blood clotting diseases.
The study adds to the increasing body of science supporting the potential cardiovascular-blood circulation health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to their ability to reduce blood clotting, other benefits include improvements in blood lipid levels, blood pressure and heart rate improvements, and improved vascular-circulation function.
This study also suggests that the potential anti-blood clotting benefits of omega-3 fatty acids may be related to gender since the men had reductions in both microparticles and platelet aggregation in the EPA group, but the women only displayed reduced platelet aggregation without a reduction in microparticles. Why males appear to benefit more than females remains to be determined.
This was a small study that used 15 healthy men and 15 healthy women with an average age of 44 years, and randomly assigned them to receive a single dose of sunflower oil (placebo), or 1 gram of EPA (EPA:DHA 5:1), or 1 gram of DHA (EPA:DHA 1:5). I question the use of sunflower oil as a “placebo.” Sunflower oil contains a high concentration of biologically active omega 6 linoleic acid that could have produced a confounding metabolic effect on the results of this study. The dietary intake of omega-3 relative to omega 6 has been implicated as a rather important factor in the development of poor health in general, and the obesity and prediabetes epidemics in particular. Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are used in numerous processed food products. Look for these so-called “vegetable oils” in food products and avoid them to reduce your omega 6 intake. Eat more foods that have omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids such as fish. Improving your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio could have more impact than you realize.
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