In oily fish are found omega-3 fatty acids, which are well-known to protect the heart and reduce inflammation in the body. One kind is “eicosapentaenoic acid” or just EPA. This is one of the more powerful kinds of the healthy fat, and a new study in Japan has shown why stroke patients may be interested in it.
EPA could protect them against having a second stroke, the researchers found. Patients in the study had high cholesterol, but were taking statin drugs to control it. When they added EPA to the treatment plan, the fish oil did not protect them from suffering a first stroke. But the fish oil supplements did lower the chance of a second stroke for those with history of stroke.
This is a major piece of news, published in the journal “Stroke.” And it could mean a newfound appreciation for fish oil, as it may actually save lives in this manner.
In the study, people with high cholesterol were taking one of two cholesterol-reducing drugs. Researchers introduced to some of them 1,800 milligrams of EPA for five years — a long time to gage the results. There were 9,326 patients taking EPA and of them 485 had a history of stroke. There were 9,319 patients not taking EPA and of them 457 had a prior stroke.
So, first they tested what EPA did to prevent a first stroke. Rates of a first stroke were 1.3% in the EPA group and 1.5% in the others, which is not significant. But there were considerably fewer second strokes among the patients taking regular fish oil supplements. It was 6.8% in the EPA group and 10.5% in the others, a significant difference.
In Japan, levels of omega-3 fatty acids are already quite high due to their high fish consumption. This study proves that adding more EPA to a diet could improve the protection against stroke even more. The more the merrier, in other words. And since the study used a straight EPA substance rather than general fish oil, these results are directly linked to that specific omega-3.
The “how” part of it all remains less clear. EPA could help lower cholesterol, inflammation and platelets in the body. It could reduce the tendency toward blood clots and keep the heart rhythm in tune. And all of this may be the reason.
But for all those who have had a stroke, EPA is one supplement definitely worth taking.