There has been a rising trend in omega-3 fish oil supplement consumption in the US over the past few years. These supplements contain eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, which are nutrients that your body requires to help it prevent heart disease. Can they also be used to help control hypertension?
Omega-3 fish oil and hypertension
One of the very first recommendations that doctors give to their hypertensive patients is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Naturally, this could mean a drastic change in diet if the person has unhealthy eating habits — such as consuming fatty foods, snacks, and sweets rich in salt and sugar.
Evidence suggests that taking omega-3 fish oil supplements can help keep blood pressure under control. These supplements contain fatty acids which are considered to be good for the health. Fish oil is normally sourced from cold-water fish, which includes anchovies, sardines, herring, and salmon. Fish is also a meat recommended for consumption during a hypertensive diet. But those of you who aren’t fans of eating fish can turn to omega-3 fish oil supplements instead.
What does research tell us about omega-3 and hypertension?
The endothelium is the layer of cells found inside the inner walls of your blood vessels. When this layer of cells is damaged, plaque can start to form, leading to a condition called atherosclerosis. This condition makes people who suffer from hypertension more exposed to the dangers of strokes and heart attacks.
In research conducted on animals, scientists have revealed that fish oil has a positive impact on artery elasticity, but can also help strengthen the endothelial function. Research has also concluded that omega-3 fish oil supplements can help keep blood pressure under control.
Back in 2014, the American Journal of Hypertension published the results of a clinical trial that looked to discover what is the impact of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids on people that have high blood pressure and on those with normal blood pressure.
The same study analyzed what happens to blood pressure in people who take omega-3 fatty acid supplements. The results showed a 1.75 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure, an a 1.1 mm Hg drop in diastolic pressure.
Fish oil can also have positive effects if you have high cholesterol and triglycerides, and can help reduce pain in patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, although studies haven’t shown drastic improvements.
Drawbacks of omega-3 fish oil
The National Institutes of Health have reported that a low dose of daily fish oil supplements is safe, provided that the portions don’t exceed a total of three grams. Ingesting a higher quantity could lead to the formation of blood clots, as well as increase the risk of bleeding.
Because of that, it’s important to take omega-3 fish oil supplements as per the doctor’s recommendations. They can pose a threat to people who have bleeding disorders, those who bruise easily, or those who are on medication with increases the risk of bleeding.
Omega-3 fish oil supplements are also restricted for people two weeks prior to any type of surgical intervention. But omega-3 fish oil supplements also have a series of other side effects, which may include nausea or heartburn.
Doctors further point out that a high dose of fish oil can prevent the immune system from functioning normally. Most omega-3 fish oil supplements have not been tested for safety and, depending on the particular brand, you may end up with a product with unregulated contents.
The medical world is concerned that fish oil supplements may also contain rancid oil, or be filled with environmental contaminants that are normally found in fish (mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls). Since there aren’t any conclusive studies that show the effects of fish oil supplements in children and pregnant women, it’s best to avoid them in such cases.
Other potential side effects of omega-3 fish oil supplements can include a bad breath, a fish aftertaste that lingers after having taken the supplements, loose stools, possible rashes, or indigestion.
While efficient in some cases, fish oil can interact with certain types of medication, so consulting with your doctor prior to taking such supplements is always indicated:
- Fish oil is known for increasing the risk of bleeding, meaning that it can also counteract the effects of antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs. The purpose of these drugs is to prevent blood clots, so taking them in combination with fish oil supplements could be dangerous.
- Because fish oil supplements is low dosage is known for its ability to lower blood pressure, combining them with blood pressure medication can increase the effects of these pills.
- Since fish oil can have an effect on triglycerides, doctors do not recommend taking them alongside contraceptive pills.
- It is also believed that fish oil interacts with weight-loss pills. The effect is a potential absorption of fatty acids.
- Fish oil supplements may also reduce your body’s vitamin E levels.
It has been noted that omega-3 fatty acids that come from specific fish species can be a good addition to the diet of a person who suffers from hypertension.