The American Heart Association (AHA) recently issued its first ever statement on triglyceride management that includes recommendations for Omega-3 EPA/DHA intake. Elevated triglyceride levels have long been associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). According to the AHA more than 31% of the United States population has borderline high triglyceride levels. Furthermore, AHA’s 2006 statistical data estimates that 81,100,000 people in the United States have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease, claiming 831,272 lives in that same year.
In conjunction with other important lifestyle changes, the AHA recommends 0.5 - 1g of Omega-3 EPA and DHA for individuals with borderline fasting triglyceride levels (150-199mg/dL), 1 - 2g for individuals with high fasting triglyceride levels (200-499mg/dL), and 2 - 4g for individuals with very high fasting triglyceride levels (≥500mg/dL). The AHA has also previously recommended that normal healthy individuals consume a variety of fish (preferably oily), and a daily intake of 1g of Omega-3 EPA and DHA for patients with documented coronary heart disease.
The recent statement issued by AHA is a very positive step for improving consumers’ understanding of the role of triglycerides in CVD management. Although awareness of the health benefits of Omega-3 is very high among consumers, many still do not understand the different forms of Omega-3 (EPA, DHA and ALA), or the health benefits of each.
It is important for consumers to understand that fish provides both EPA and DHA, whereas most algae sources provide only DHA. Furthermore, while ALA is an essential fatty acid, many of the reported health benefits associated with Omega-3 have been the result of supplementation with EPA and DHA. While the body can theoretically convert ALA into EPA and DHA, the actual conversion rate is very low. In fact, many studies suggest that the conversion rate can be as low as 1% or less. As such, fish, fish oil supplements, and food products fortified with fish oil are the best sources of Omega-3 for consumers.