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Omega-3 fatty acids with minimal benefits in lowering risks of heart disease: Study

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If you include plenty of omega-3-rich foods in your diet and shun saturated fats to lower your risks of heart disease, findings of a new study may bring some bad news to you. Researchers involved in a new study focused on the association between fatty acid consumption and cardiovascular health said that high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids does not reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.

In the study "Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis" published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine March 18, researchers analyzed data from 72 earlier studies that involved 600,000 participants from 18 countries to find evidence of link between fatty acids and coronary heart disease.

The American Heart Association (AHA) promotes the consumption of polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 found in fatty fish, vegetable oils and nuts as well as urge the reduction in foods that are rich in saturated fats such as fat from meat, milk and other dairy products saying that these could raise blood cholesterol level which could lead to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

The researchers, however, said that their study did not provide evidence that would support this recommendation. "Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats," the researchers concluded.

Of the 72 studies analyzed by the researchers, 40 involved healthy people, 10 with subjects who have high cardiovascular risk factors and 22 involved subjects with cardiovascular disease.

Study author Rajiv Chowdhury, a cardiovascular epidemiologist in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge in the U.K said that in 17 studies that involved over 75,000 subjects, they did not find proof that supplementing the diet with omega-3 fatty acids decreases heart disease risks. "My take on this would be that it's not saturated fat that we should worry about," Chowdhury said. "It's the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines."

Still, other health experts advise that the current dietary recommendations be followed. "Dietary recommendations are not made on the basis of a single study," said Penny Kris-Etherton, a professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, said. "For now, people should follow the recommendations because they came from five years of review and they're based on a lot of different studies."

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