Daily supplements of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) may improve blood pressure levels in slightly overweight teenage boys.
Blood pressure reductions in the order of 3 mmHg were observed following 16 weeks of consumption of omega-3-fortified bread by overweight boys going through their adolescent growth spurt, according to the findings from Copenhagen University and the Technical University of Denmark.
"Blood pressure has been shown to track into adulthood, with children and adolescents with high blood pressure more likely to suffer from hypertension later in life. Thus, adolescents with blood pressure in the higher range can be viewed as "pre-hypertensive," but whether the tracking of high blood pressure is a result of unhealthy diet and exercise habits carried from childhood to adulthood or whether some programming of blood pressure occurs during adolescence is not known," they added.
The heart-health benefits of consuming oily fish, and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s. To date, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to improvements in blood lipid levels, a reduced tendency of thrombosis, blood pressure and heart rate improvements and improved vascular function.
The new study involved 78 mildly overweight adolescent boys aged between 13 and 15. "We chose to recruit slightly overweight boys, because we wanted clear potential for improvement in the risk factors evaluated," explained the researchers.
Boys were randomly assigned to consume a supplement of 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day or control (vegetable oil) for 16 weeks. The oil was formulated in bread. At the end of the study, the researchers recorded a significant increase in EPA and DHA levels in the red blood cells of the omega-3 group of 1.2 and 6.7 percent, respectively, compared with increases of 0.6 and 4.1 percent in the control group.
In addition, systolic blood pressure was 3.8 mmHg lower following 16 weeks of omega-3-rich bread consumption, compared with control, while diastolic blood pressure was 2.6 mmHg lower in the omega-3 group.
The Journal of Pediatrics 157(3):395-400, 2010