23 Jul Are Omega-3s preventing heart disease in Japan?
A study has shown that American men are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease than their Japanese peers. New research stemming from this finding investigated what aspect of Japanese culture might be reducing the chances of Japanese men developing cardiovascular problems. The answer may be as simple as eating more good foods and fewer bad ones. Sounds too easy to be true, right?
Omega-3s: Japan's secret
Research by Dr. William Harris examined 900 men of various heritage to identify the factors responsible for Japan's low occurrence heart disease. The experiment, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, measured the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in 300 Japanese, 300 Japanese-American and 300 American men.
The data showed that the levels of DHA and EPA, two omega-3s, are up to 80 percent higher in Japanese men than in either of the other groups, and in general, a standard Japanese diet contains eight to 15 times more EPA and DHA than an American diet. This extreme difference indicates that the benefits of omega-3s play a roll in keeping Japanese hearts healthier.
However, Japan isn't the only population with a high omega-3 intake. Other groups, such as the Native Alaskans and Norwegians, consume a similar amount of fatty acids but don't have the same low levels of heart disease. Researchers credit this discrepancy to high consumption of saturated fats in addition to the omega-3s.
The skinny on fats
Even if you are getting the necessary fatty acids, you can undermine the omega-3 benefits by consuming too many "bad" fats. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that only 25 percent of Americans have any measurable DHA or EPA intake, so it stands to reason that most of our daily fat intake is of unhealthy saturated and trans fats.
These "bad" fats are found in many packaged foods, as well as foods like French fries and margarine, and are often linked to cardiovascular diseases. According to the CDC, no more than 10 percent of daily caloric intake should be from saturated fats.
If you're considering switching to a more heart-healthy diet, consider your daily fat intake. You should aim to consume more polyunsaturated fats like EPA and DHA and less unhealthy saturated and trans fats. If you have trouble getting these dietary fats naturally there are many products that contain the important ingredients, such as Omax3, an ultra-pure omega-3 supplement.