Stem the Tide of Chronic Inflammation to Protect Your Heart

By Jolie Root, LPN

Inflammation affects more than your joints. Recently, scientists have begun to recognize inflammation in the body as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, with the use of omega-3s to prevIent inflammation, potentially dangerous medications may not be necessary to keep your ticker strong. Scores of studies show the omega-3s, EPA and DHA, play a role in resolving inflammation without threatening our heart and blood vessels.

Inflammation is part of the body's immune response. Initially, it is beneficial when fighting off an infection or after an injury. However, inflammation can cause further inflammation; it can become self-perpetuating and eventually detrimental.

When injury or infection occurs, the inflammation process begins. Damaged cells release inflammatory mediators known as prostaglandins. Next, the prostaglandins cause nearby blood vessels to dilate, becoming porous, and allowing immune compounds to pass from the bloodstream into the tissue. Neutrophils (white blood cells), the immune system's version of first responders, engulf and kill invading microbes, releasing cytokines (inflammation-promoting proteins), thus intensifying the response.

Several hours after initial inflammation, the neutrophils can convert omega-3s into lipoxins, resolvins, and protectins. These resolution factors help prevent chronic inflammation by blocking the production of additional inflammatory compounds.

Current research shows that fish-oil-derived omega-3s, EPA and DHA, are capable of reducing inflammation in individuals with chronic heart failure. The results indicate circulating levels of the inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha, interleukin 1, and interleukin 6) significantly decreased after fish-oil supplementation.

Key genetic pathways allow omega-3s to decrease inflammatory molecules such as nuclear factor kappa B, TNFalpha, IL-1, IL-6, and C-reactive protein (CRP). This can lead to the suppression of COX-1 and COX-2, which are the same enzymes targeted by non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief. By slowing the pro-inflammatory cascade, the omega-3s can cut down on life-threatening atherosclerotic plaques.

Longevity is another benefit from the anti-inflammatory effect of the omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA. The connection is clear. The common denominator among many of the serious illnesses afflicting our society—depression, heart disease, type II diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's disease—is the role inflammation plays in their onset. Inflammatory cytokines are a reliable predictor of all-cause mortality in older adults. Because of this connection, ways to maintain healthy levels of cytokines are crucial to overall health. Omega-3s, with their ability to lower levels of cytokines, are one way to combat inflammation in people of all ages.

According to a study conducted in 2009, patients taking 1,800 mg of EPA/ DHA a day changed the expression of 1,040 genes. As a result, activity of genes involved in inflammatory and in bloodclotting pathways decreased.

With the abundance of research on the benefits of Omega-3s, it would seem simple for a person to act. However, many people are still opposed to the idea of taking a daily dose of EPA/DHA-rich fish oil. A high dose of 1,800 mg, like in the 2009 study, is especially hard to accomplish because many capsules fall short of that amount.

Luckily, one company makes liquid fish oils that are loaded with omega-3s and do not taste fishy! Awarded multiple times for best-tasting fish oil, Carlson Laboratories offers several liquids that provide from 900 mg to 1,300 mg of EPA/DHA per teaspoon. Flavors available include regular, light lemon, orange, and fruit flavor. Lemon is a great addition to your favorite salad dressing or smoothie, and the fruit flavor blends well in smoothies or fruit yogurts.

Concerning contaminants, be sure to read your fish oil label carefully. On a quality fish oil, the label should say the product has been independently tested and has been found to be free of detrimental levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, PCBs, and other contaminants. Always look for a purity assurance statement on your fish oil label. Not only have all Carlson Laboratories vitamins and supplements been found to be free of harmful levels of contaminants, they are regularly tested by an independent lab to maintain the highest level of purity.

Carlson's superior-quality fish oil supplements are a great way to stay healthy and combat inflammation. Naturally loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, Carlson fish oils are a tasty way to get the powerful nutrients needed to prevent heart disease.


W. Xin, et al., "Effects of fish oil supplementation on inflammatory markers in chronic heart failure: a metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials," BMC Cardiovasc Disord. 12, 77 (2012)

Bouwens, M., van de Rest, O., Dellschaft, N., Bromhaar, M.G., de Groot, L.C., Geleijnse, J.M., Muller, M., Afman, L.A., 2009. Fish-oil supplementation induces antiinflammatory gene expression profiles in human blood mononuclear cells. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 90, 415–424.