If you have been living under a rock for the past 40 years, you may not have heard the news…fish oil is good for you. It’s been well established over and over in the research that supplemental fish oil has a host of benefits ranging from neurological health to cardiovascular health to skin and eye health (to name only a few). Most of the studies, however, have only looked at the long term benefits of EPA and DHA. While the beneficial results have been quite conclusive, within the past couple years, the acute effects of fish oil have finally begun to be brought to light. Most notably, the acute studies have focused on arterial stiffness and other measures of vascular function. These findings may impact clients who are concerned with both cardiovascular health as well as athletic performance.
The most recent study of note was just reported online in the March 2010 journal Clinical Nutrition. In this study, the U.K. researchers tested 25 individuals for the short-term effects of the addition of 4.7g of EPA and DHA to a medium-fat meal. They found that in 4 hours or less, there was a reduction in post-prandial arterial stiffness. The researchers suggested that this may have been due to an increase in NO or nitric oxide, a known vasodilator.1 Another study in 2008 showed similar findings in which they demonstrated an increase in eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthase), an enzyme that is used to produce NO. An increase in NO leads to vasodilation and improved blood flow. These results correlated with the 2010 study by studying the 4 hour effects of adding EPA and DHA to a fatty meal.2 A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in February of 2008 by researchers from Kings College in London also found reductions in a stiffness index blood marker at 6 hours post-prandial.3
What does this all mean for heart health and athletes? For heart health, an increase in vasodilation is typically associated with a lowering of blood pressure—and blood pressure is an independent risk factor for heart attack, meaning that even if everything else looks good, if you have high blood pressure you are at an increased risk for a heart attack. High blood pressure can also affect the health of organs such as the brain, eyes, and kidneys. There may also be implications related to atherosclerosis, blood clotting and even angiogenesis or the formation of new blood vessels. On the performance side, most athletes have become aware of the benefits of nitric oxide as it relates to “the pump” and improved blood flow to working muscles, but the use of fish oil preworkout is a new concept. Based on the research and recent findings in the gym, I would recommend taking 7 to 10 EPA-DHA 720 Blend with your preworkout meal. Interestingly, it’s been known for a long time that high fat meals (with no omega-3s) increase arterial stiffness, so fish oil has been shown to not only reverse this effect but also improve vasodilation above baseline.
1 Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar 1. Long chain n-3 PUFA-rich meal reduced postprandial measures of arterial stiffness.Chong MF, Lockyer S, Saunders CJ, Lovegrove JA. Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition and Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research, Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, UK.
2 Clin Sci (Lond). 2008 Jun;114(11):679-86. Fish oil fatty acids improve postprandial vascular reactivity in healthy men. Armah CK, Jackson KG, Doman I, James L, Cheghani F, Minihane AM. Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, Department of Food Biosciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, UK.
3 J Nutr. 2008 Feb;138(2):287-91. A high-fat meal enriched with eicosapentaenoic acid reduces postprandial arterial stiffness measured by digital volume pulse analysis in healthy men. Hall WL, Sanders KA, Sanders TA, Chowienczyk PJ. Nutritional Sciences Division, School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, King's College London, London SE1 7EH UK.
Copyright ©2010 Charles Poliquin