Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, so it’s important to know which foods can help reduce the risk. A new research review has found that the major plant-based version of the nutrient omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), can benefit heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
ALA is found in foods such as flaxseeds and walnuts and was linked to a 20% reduction in risk for heart disease and a 10% reduction in cardiovascular disease. There are many ways for people to get the recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids which help promote overall health. One way is by eating seafood, but some people may not want to do this for various reasons. Even if someone eats seafood, incorporating plant-based ALA into their diet can provide extra benefits.
Recent research suggests that consuming ALA can be beneficial for heart health, particularly in those with low levels of omega-3s in their diet. However, this finding was also seen in people who had high levels of omega-3s from other sources. This suggests that ALA works synergistically with other omega-3s to promote heart health. Omega-3s have been linked with a lower risk of heart disease in the past, and this conclusion was based on evidence from marine-derived omega-3s. However, the benefits of ALA have been less well documented. By consuming ALA, you may be able to enjoy the benefits of omega-3s for heart health.
The review found that ALA can improve heart health by reducing the risk of heart disease and improving blood pressure and inflammation levels. The data analyzed came from both controlled trials and observational studies. Some of the observational studies relied on participants self-reporting their ALA intake, while others used biomarkers to measure levels of ALA in the blood. This provides a more accurate measure of ALA intake. Overall, the findings showed that ALA has a positive impact on heart health.
It is now more important to identify people who can receive the most benefit from eating ALA rich foods. The researchers found that ALA had beneficial effects on reducing lipoproteins and atherogenic lipids. This could help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol, low density-lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides levels. Additionally, ALA was also able to lower blood pressure and inflammation levels.
From the research they were able to find supporting evidence that ALA can provide 0.6%-1% of the total day’s energy. This is close to 1.1 grams for women and 1.6 grams for men on a daily basis. This is equal to almost 1/2 oz of walnuts or just shy of 1 tsp of flaxseed oil.
In the future, more studies will be needed to assess the total effects of ALA on various chronic diseases. Additionally, further evaluation is needed on whether the current scientific articles support new and maybe higher dietary recommendations for ALA.
To view the original scientific study click below:
Impact of a-Linolenic Acid, the Vegetable w-3 Fatty Acid, on Cardiovascular Disease and Cognition