A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded that the American Heart Association's recommended cardioprotective dose of omega-3 fatty acids can lower triglycerides in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) - whether the lipids come in the form of DHA combined with EPA or just DHA alone.
The study, conducted through Kaiser Permanente Colorado, involved 116 patients with coronary artery disease and triglycerides greater than 200 mg/dL, approximately 90 percent of whom were on statin drugs. The groups of participants were supplemented with DHA alone, or DHA combined with EPA. The aim of the prospective, randomized, double-blind study was to compare DHA to DHA + EPA in patients with CAD and triglycerides greater than 200 mg/dL.
Subjects were randomized to receive either 1000 mg of DHA or 1252 mg of DHA + EPA for eight weeks. A total of 116 subjects were enrolled; 57 in the DHA group and 59 in the DHA + EPA group. Baseline characteristics were similar between groups. The mean age was 69.4 years and 70.7 percent were male.
Hypertriglyceridemia is a risk factor for CAD and the American Heart Association recommends 1000 mg of omega-3's DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) daily for cardioprotection and higher doses for triglyceride-lowering in patients with CAD.
In the study, triglycerides were lowered an average of 21.8 percent in the DHA group and 18.3 percent in the DHA + EPA group. The difference between groups was not significant, according to the study, and a higher proportion of subjects in the DHA group achieved their triglyceride goal (less than 150 mg/dL) compared to the DHA + EPA group (24.6 percent versus 10.2 percent).
The study compared Martek's life's DHA branded microalgae ingredient with a fish oil that provided a combination of DHA and EPA. Martek said it did not fund or sponsor the study. DHA from microalgae is regarded as an important development in this area, as traditional vegetarian sources of omega-3 such as flaxseed yield shorter chain fatty acids, which lose a portion of their health benefits for humans when they are converted into DHA and EPA by the body.
DHA and EPA are omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in fish and fish oil. Krill oil is another important source of DHA and EPA.
Schwellenbach, Lisa J. “The Triglyceride-Lowering Effects of a Modest Dose of Docosahexaenoic Acid Alone Versus in Combination with Low Dose Eicosapentaenoic Acid in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease and Elevated Triglycerides.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2006 Dec; Vol. 25, No. 6, 480-485.