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Studies Reexamine Link between Fatty Acids and Heart Health

Update Date: Mar 18, 2014 03:30 PM EDT

According to several health organizations, eating foods high in polyunsaturated fatty acids can be beneficial for heart health. These agencies, such as the American Heart Association, recommend people to eat omega-3s and omega-6s. However, two newly published studies have reported that there is still not enough evidence to suggest that eating a diet high in fatty acids is indeed heart healthy.

In the first study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis on 32 observational studies centered on the effects of consuming fatty acids from one's diet, 17 observational studies focused on fatty acid biomarkers and 27 randomized, controlled trials analyzing the effects of fatty acid supplementation. From the last group of trials, the researchers reported that taking long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids did not protect people from a cardiovascular event.

"We intended to help resolve the existing uncertainties around fatty acids and their potential association with coronary heart disease risk," Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury from the University of Cambridge said according to FOX News.

"Current evidence does not clearly support guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats," the study authors concluded reported by CNN.

This study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In the second study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers examined 4,023 seniors with had age-related macular degeneration. The researchers concluded that adding long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids to their diets did not help reduce their risk of suffering from a heart event. This study, however, included some participants who had been diagnosed with heart disease. Some of the study's participants also knew which type of treatment they were on, which could greatly affect the outcome.

"Patients raising the question of taking omega-3 supplements should be informed of the uncertainty surrounding their choice, and regular dietary consumption of [whole] fish should be preferentially encouraged as a source [of these fatty acids]," commented the study authors, Dr. Evangelos Rizos and Dr. Evangelia Ntzani.

Both studies' authors concluded that supplementing one's diet with polyunsaturated fatty acids would not necessarily reduce one's risk of a heart event. Other factors, such as overall diet and exercise level continue to play huge roles in protecting heart health.

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