The research focused on the effects of two forms of omega-3 fatty acid--eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)--on systemic arterial compliance, a measure of the degree of large artery elasticity. Increased stiffness in the large arteries can lead to systolic hypertension and increased pulse pressure (the difference between diastolic and systolic pressure), both factors that may contribute to increased coronary risk. Thirty-eight middle-aged men and women with elevated plasma total cholesterol consumed an EPA supplement, a DHA supplement, or a placebo during a 7-week dietary intervention. In contrast to the placebo group who showed no change, systemic arterial compliance rose 36% in the EPA group and 27% in the DHA group, while there was a trend toward reduced systolic and pulse pressure. Both omega-3 fatty acid supplement groups experienced significant declines in plasma total triacylglycerol concentrations.
The present study adds another potential benefit of n-3 fatty acids to previously known benefits, such as the lowering of triacylglycerols, which appear to aid in the prevention of ischemic heart disease.