The Heart

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Is krill oil better than fish oil for omega-3?

Krill oil and fish oil supplements are two sources of omega-3 fatty acids including DHA and EPA. While oil from both krill and fish provide health benefits, there are differences in their origin, price, and benefits.

Fish oil comes from oily fish, such as tuna, herring, or sardines. Krill oil comes from a small, shrimp-like animal called krill.

Krill oil has a distinctive red color while fish oil supplements are typically yellow or gold. Krill oil is usually more expensive than fish oil.

While each supplement type contains omega-3 fatty acids, there are various risks and benefits in taking each supplement type. Read on to find out more.

Benefits of krill oil and fish oil Krill oil versus fish oil
Omega-3 fatty acids are present in krill oil and fish oil.

Both krill oil and fish oil contain omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the most popular and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

When consumed in fish, these fatty acids have been shown to boost a person's overall heart health and reduce the risks of heart attack and coronary artery disease. However, while research has shown eating whole fish can have heart-protecting benefits, scientific studies have not yet proven that taking omega-3 supplements offers the same benefits as eating fish.

However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that the specific benefits of taking omega-3 supplements include:

Reducing high triglyceride levels. High triglyceride levels are associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Relieving rheumatoid arthritis. Evidence suggests that omega-3 supplements may help relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Relieving dry eye symptoms. Some studies have indicated that omega-3 supplements help to improve eye moisture and reduce the symptoms of dry eye disease. However, other large-scale studies have found that taking omega-3 supplements are no better than a placebo for eye dryness, so more research is needed.

Drug stores and online supermarkets sell both fish oil and krill oil supplements.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today What does the research say? A study from 2011 compared the effects of fish and krill oil, finding that they resulted in similar blood levels of EPA and DHA. However, people took 3 grams (g) of krill oil and only 1.8 g of fish oil, which may suggest that a person needs to take almost twice as much krill oil as fish oil to get the same benefits. However, the amount and concentration of omega-3 in krill and fish oil vary depending on the product. Some krill oil manufacturers claim that the krill oil omega-3s are better absorbed than fish oil omega-3s, so a lower concentration works just as well. However, there is no current proof that this statement is true. According to the study's authors, 30–65 percent of krill oil's fatty acids are stored as phospholipids, while the fatty acids in fish oils are instead stored primarily as triglycerides. The researchers suggest that the body may able to use fatty acids stored as phospholipids more easily. However, despite this possibility, a person may still have to take more krill oil capsules than fish oil to get an equivalent amount of omega-3s. Another small-scale study published in 2013 found that after 4 weeks of taking only one of the supplements, krill oil led to higher levels of EPA and DHA in a person's blood compared with fish oil. Although both supplements increased levels of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, they also increased levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is the 'bad' cholesterol. Studies are not consistent, though. A study from 2015 found no differences in krill oil and fish oil in the blood after 4 weeks of taking supplements. So, while some research suggests that the body might better absorb krill oil, other studies find no difference between fish and krill oil. More research is therefore needed. The above research only looks effects of the oil on blood levels, which is just one marker of their potential benefits. No study has compared these products to see if one works better than the other for the specific uses that people are interested in, such as bodybuilding or promoting heart health. Risks of krill oil and fish oil Krill oil versus fish oil - both can cause bad breath
There is no significant risk in taking omega-3 supplements, but a person may experience bad breath as a result. Taking omega-3 supplements in the forms of krill oil and fish oil does not appear to carry any significant side effects, but minor side effects may include: Also, omega-3 supplements, such as krill oil and fish oil, have the potential to interact negatively with blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin). This is because omega-3 fatty acids have mild anticoagulant or blood-thinning effects. However, a person must usually take between 3 and 6 g of fish oil a day for these adverse interactions to occur. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Dosage recommendations The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) reports there is no established upper limit for taking omega-3 supplements. However, taking dosages of more than 900 milligrams (mg) of EPA and 600 mg of DHA a day can reduce a person's immune system by suppressing natural inflammatory responses. According to the ODS, daily intakes for omega-3 fatty acids are about 1.6 g per day for men and 1.1 g per day for women. The ODS also recommend not exceeding 2 g of EPA and DHA a day from dietary supplements. A person should read supplement labels carefully to determine how much of each substance is in each capsule. Takeaway Krill oil versus fish oil - both can reduce arthritis symptoms
Omega-3 may help to reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. According to the ODS, an estimated 7.8 percent of adults and 1.1 percent of children in the United States take omega-3 fatty acid supplements in the forms of fish oil, krill oil, or animal-free alternatives, such as algal oil or flaxseed oil. The evidence is still inconclusive about whether krill oil works as well as or better than fish oil. So far, most of the research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids has been carried out using fish oil. There is not a lot of research on krill oil. Taking omega-3 supplements can offer benefits in terms of lowering triglyceride levels and reducing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. However, the evidence is inconclusive regarding whether they can reduce heart disease or improve overall cardiovascular health to the same extent as eating whole fish. According to the NIH, eating oily fish, including tuna and salmon, can offer a greater variety of nutrients than supplements, and has been shown to improve heart health. On balance, taking either krill oil or fish oil supplements can help to boost a person's overall levels of omega-3 fatty acids, though it is unclear whether one is better than the other.
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One egg per day may keep stroke at bay

Popular knowledge has it that eggs, due to their high cholesterol content, are quite bad for us. New research, however, suggests we would do well to indulge in more egg consumption: about one per day could help us to steer clear of cardiovascular conditions.
carton of eggs
We might think of eggs as unhealthful, but could they protect against cardiovascular events?

If you've ever heard that eating more than two or three eggs per week is bad for your health, you're not alone.

Some studies have suggested that, due to yolks' high cholesterol content, eggs can be a harmful food — particularly for people already at risk of cardiovascular events.

The idea that eggs may pose danger to health has also been spread widely by many popular websites and magazines.

However, despite being rich in cholesterol, eggs are also a great source of healthful nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, phospholipids, and carotenoids.

And, recent research has increasingly gathered evidence showing that eggs don't really influence the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

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One study published in 2013 in The BMJ, for example, concluded that eating up to one egg per day was not tied to a heightened risk of heart disease or stroke.

Another study, published earlier this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggested that a "high-egg diet" of up to 12 eggs per week did not increase cardiovascular risk.

But recent research from the School of Public Health at Peking University Health Science Center in Beijing, China, goes even further.

Lead investigators Prof. Liming Li and Dr. Canqing Yu have now found that a diet in which eggs are consumed on a regular basis may actually protect cardiovascular health.

The team's findings were published yesterday in the journal Heart.

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About 84 million people in the United States have some form of CVD, and about 2,200 people die each day due to their condition. And, in China, the rates for cardiovascular conditions are even higher.

In China in 2014, an estimated "837,300 urban residents and 1,023,400 rural residents died from cerebrovascular diseases," according to recent data. And the most widespread conditions are stroke — both hemorrhagic and ischemic — and ischemic heart disease, in that order.

These numbers motivated the researchers involved in the new study to investigate what role — if any — egg consumption plays in modifying the risk for CVD.

In order to do so, they analyzed data sourced via the China Kadoorie Biobank, which is an ongoing prospective study investigating the genetic and environmental causes of chronic diseases among the Chinese population.

In this study, Prof. Li and team analyzed health-related information from 416,213 adult participants recruited in 2004–2008. They were all free of cancer, CVD, and diabetes at baseline.

At recruitment, the participants reported how often they ate eggs — 13.1 percent of them admitting to daily consumption (about 0.76 eggs per day) and 9.1 percent saying that they only indulged in eggs rarely (0.29 eggs per day) or not at all.

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There was a median follow-up period of 8.9 years, during which new health diagnoses and deaths were recorded. During that time, 83,977 participants received a CVD diagnosis, and 9,985 people died due to CVD-related causes. Moreover, 5,103 major coronary events were recorded.

The researchers' analysis revealed that individuals who usually ate about one egg per day had a 26 percent lower risk of experiencing hemorrhagic stroke, a 28 percent lower risk of death due to this type of event, and an 18 percent lower risk of CVD-related mortality.

Almost daily egg consumption — or around 5.32 eggs per week — was also linked to a 12 percent lower risk of ischemic heart disease, compared with people who never or rarely ate this food (amounting to approximately 2.03 eggs per week).

"The present study finds that there is an association between moderate level of egg consumption (up to 1 egg/day) and a lower cardiac event rate," the study authors explain.

Prof. Li and team warn that this was an observational study, so it would be unwise to conclude that there is necessarily a causational effect between egg consumption and a lower risk of CVD.

However, the large population sample size with which the researchers worked, as well as the fact that they adjusted for confounding factors — both known and potential CVD risk factors — imply that this is a strong possibility.

"Our findings," the researchers conclude, "contribute scientific evidence to the dietary guidelines with regard to egg consumption for the healthy Chinese adult."

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Increasing exercise over 6-year span protects the heart

With heart failure, the cardiac muscle is unable to pump blood at the normal rate, resulting in persistent tiredness, breathlessness, and swollen legs. The condition can appear with age and tends to worsen over time.
older individuals exercising
Can increasing exercise protect heart health? And how much would you need to increase it by to benefit? A new study investigates.

Heart failure affects about 5.7 million adults in the United States.

The most salient risk factors for this condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are: hypertension, a history of coronary heart disease or heart attacks, and diabetes.

Since this condition, once acquired, has to be managed for life, healthcare professionals recommend preventive strategies.

These usually involve making more healthful lifestyle choices by acquiring good dietary habits and exercising regularly.

But how do fluctuations in a person's levels of physical activity influence their risk of experiencing heart failure? That is what Dr. Chiadi Ndumele and colleagues, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, and other institutions set out to clarify.

In a new study — the findings of which have now been published in the journal Circulation — Dr. Ndumele and team investigate whether individuals who are active until middle age, but then become more sedentary, are more exposed to heart failure and vice versa.

"The population of people with heart failure is growing," says first study author Dr. Roberta Florido, "because people are living longer and surviving heart attacks and other forms of heart disease."

"Unlike other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, we don't have specifically effective drugs to prevent heart failure," she notes, "so we need to identify and verify effective strategies for prevention and emphasize these to the public."

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It's never too late to exercise more

The research team analyzed data sourced from 11,351 people using the long-term Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. The participants had an average age of 60 at the point of recruitment, and 57 percent of them were women.

They were monitored over a period of 19 years, on average, and records were kept about instances of cardiovascular disease events — including heart failure, stroke, and heart attack — on a yearly basis.

Moreover, each participant was asked to delineate their exercise habits on two ARIC study visits — first at baseline, and then again after 6 years. The researchers then used this information to rate everyone's levels of physical activity.

Measuring the study participants' exercise habits against the American Heart Association's (AHA) recommendations, they were categorized as:

poor, if the individual did not typically exercise intermediate, if exercise levels corresponded to those outlined by the AHA — that is, a minimum of 75 minutes of "vigorous" exercise per week, or at least 150 minutes of "moderate" exercise per week

Dr. Ndumele and his collegues noted that the participants that met recommended exercise levels both at baseline and at the 6-year mark appeared to enjoy the greatest benefits to heart health, with a 31 percent lower risk of heart failure, compared with their peers who had poor physical activity habits during the same timeline.

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But those participants who increased their levels of physical activity over that 6-year period also experienced benefits. Heart failure risk decreased by 12 percent among individuals who upped their fitness levels from poor to intermediate.

And the reverse was also true — participants who gave up exercise during those 6 years saw an 18 percent increase in heart failure risk.

"In everyday terms," notes Dr. Ndumele, "our findings suggest that consistently participating in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week, such as brisk walking or biking, in middle age may be enough to reduce your heart failure risk by 31 percent."

"Additionally," he says, "going from no exercise to recommended activity levels over 6 years in middle age may reduce heart failure risk by 23 percent."

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At what rate must we up our exercise levels?

The research team also wanted to ascertain by how much an individual would need to increase their levels of physical activity in order to lower their risk of experiencing heart failure.

To do so, they calculated physical activity as "metabolic equivalents" (METs) and described one MET as 1 kilocalorie per kilogram per hour, which was equivalent to a passive activity, such as sitting down and watching TV.

Different activities corresponded to different MET levels; for instance, walking fast would be 3 METs, jogging 7 METs, and jumping rope 10 METs.

They determined that every increase of 750 MET minutes per week over a 6-year period would reduce the risk of heart failure by 16 percent. Also, every increase of 1,000 MET minutes per week would result in a 21 percent lower risk of heart failure.

That being said, Dr. Ndumele and his team also warn that their study was observational, and so the relationship between physical activity levels and the decreased risks to heart health should not be automatically taken as causational.

Even so, they note that the trends they observed are consistent enough to indicate that individuals may benefit from adhering to exercise guidelines in middle age.

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What are the best foods for heart health?

Heart disease is still the number one killer in the United States. In this Spotlight, we outline 16 foods that, when consumed as part of a well-rounded diet, might help to keep your heart healthy.
Heart-shaped fruits
How can you improve your heart health with food?

There are many things you can do to help keep your heart healthy and disease-free.

You can schedule an annual checkup, exercise daily, quit smoking, or take steps to reduce the level of stress in your life.

All of these things can have a positive effect on heart health. But, one of the simplest lifestyle changes that will benefit your heart is watching what you eat.

Nearly 6 million people are currently living with heart failure, and around half of these will die within 5 years of being diagnosed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, or sodium can be very bad for the heart. So, when taking steps to minimize the risk of heart disease, diet is a good place to start.

In this article, we examine some of the best foods for ensuring that you keep a robust and healthy heart.

1. Asparagus

Asparagus is a natural source of folate, which helps to prevent an amino acid called homocysteine from building up in the body. High homocysteine levels have been linked with an increased risk of heart-related conditions, such as coronary artery disease and stroke.

2. Beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils

Beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils — otherwise known as pulses or legumes — can all significantly reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad cholesterol." They are also packed with fiber, protein, and antioxidant polyphenols, all of which have beneficial effects on the heart and general health.

3. Berries

Berries are also full of antioxidant polyphenols, which help to reduce heart disease risk. Berries are a great source of fiber, folate, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and they are low in fat.

4. Broccoli

Some studies suggest that regularly eating steamed broccoli can lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease.

5. Chia seeds and flaxseeds

These seeds are a rich plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid. Omega-3s have many beneficial effects, such as helping to lower levels of triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol. They also reduce blood pressure and minimize the buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries.

Omega-3s decrease the risk of disorders that can lead to heart attack, such as thrombosis and arrhythmias.

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6. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a rare example of a food that tastes amazing and is good for you (in moderation).

Heart health dark chocolate
Dark chocolate: delicious and heart-healthy.

Scientists now believe that dark chocolate has protective benefits against atherosclerosis, which is when plaque builds up inside the arteries, increasing risk of heart attack and stroke.

Dark chocolate seems to prevent two of the mechanisms implicated in atherosclerosis: stiffness of the arteries and white blood cell adhesion, which is when white blood cells stick to the walls of blood vessels.

What is more, studies have found that increasing dark chocolate's flavanol content — which is the compound that makes it tasty and moreish — does not diminish these protective benefits.

7. Coffee

Also in the "almost too good to be true" camp is coffee. One recent study found that regularly drinking coffee was linked with a decreased risk of developing heart failure and stroke.

However, it is important to bear in mind that this study — which used machine learning to assess data from the Framingham Heart Study — can only observe an association between factors, and cannot conclusively identify cause and effect.

8. Fish high in omega-3s

Fish is a strong source of heart-helping omega-3 fatty acids and protein but it is low in saturated fat. People who have heart disease, or are at risk of developing it, are often recommended to increase their intake of omega-3s by eating fish; this is because they lower the risk of abnormal heartbeats and slow the growth of plaque in the arteries.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), we should eat a 3.5-ounce serving of fatty fish — such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna — at least twice per week.

9. Green tea

A 2011 systematic review found that drinking green tea is associated with a small reduction in cholesterol, which, as we know, is a main contributor to heart disease and stroke. But the review could not pinpoint how much green tea someone would have to drink to receive any health benefits.

In 2014, another review studied the effects of drinking green tea on people with high blood pressure. The report concluded that green tea was associated with a reduction in blood pressure. But, the authors were unable to determine if this modest reduction could help to prevent heart disease.

10. Nuts

Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts are all heart-healthy nut options. These nuts are full of protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Like fish and flaxseeds, walnuts are also ripe with omega-3 fatty acids, making them a heart-healthy snack to have on the go.

11. Liver

Of all the organ meats, liver is the most nutrient-dense. In particular, liver is bulging with folic acid, iron, chromium, copper, and zinc, which increase the blood's hemoglobin level and help to keep our heart healthy.

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12. Oatmeal

Because oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber, it may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. A 2008 review of the evidence concluded that oat-based products significantly reduce LDL and total cholesterol without any adverse effects.

13. Red wine (sort of)

Many studies have noted the potential health benefits of the antioxidants in red wine. However, it is unlikely that the benefits of the antioxidants outweigh the dangers of alcohol.

Red wine and heart
Red wine contains beneficial antioxidants, but bear in mind that it should only be consumed in moderation.

Recently, however, a new study proposed that these same antioxidants could form the basis of a new stent for use during angioplasty — the process where narrow or obstructed veins are widened to treat atherosclerosis.

The researchers behind that study are currently developing a new kind of stent that releases red wine-like antioxidants into the blood to promote healing, prevent blood clotting, and reduce inflammation during angioplasty.

It is worth noting that drinking alcohol, in general, is not healthy for your heart. In fact, it is vitally important for cardiovascular health to drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.

14. Spinach

You can help to maintain a healthy heart rhythm by regularly consuming good sources of magnesium. Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary magnesium, and consumption of Popeye's favorite food is associated with a raft of health benefits.

15. Tomatoes

Tomatoes have lots of nutrients that might help keep our hearts healthy. The little red fruits are chock-full of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, folate, and choline, which are all good for the heart.

As well as helping to keep heart disease at bay, potassium benefits muscles and bones, and helps prevent kidney stones from forming.

Scientists have argued that increasing potassium intake while decreasing sodium intake is the most important dietary change when attempting to reduce the risk of heart disease.

16. Vegetables

The AHA advise that we eat eight or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Vegetables are low in fat and calories but rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins. A healthful amount of veggies in the diet can help to moderate weight and blood pressure.

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Reversing atherosclerosis with one shot

New research demonstrates that injecting synthetically designed nanofibers in mice helps to break up the arterial plaque that is a hallmark of atherosclerosis.
plaque build up inside of arteries
A new study suggests that an injection might be able to reduce arterial plaque (depicted here).

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which plaque builds inside the arteries, stiffening and eventually clogging them.

Plaque is a waxy substance that's made of cholesterol, fat, fragments of cellular waste, calcium, and fibrin, an insoluble protein that helps the blood to clot.

As plaque gradually builds up inside the arteries, it causes the vessels to lose their elasticity, which makes them less efficient at pumping blood.

It also makes the walls inside the arteries thicker, which limits the flow of oxygen to the cells. Over time, plaque can lead to blood clots, or parts of it can detach and block the arteries.

For these reasons, atherosclerosis may lead to coronary heart disease, angina, peripheral artery disease, or chronic kidney disease, among other conditions.

Current therapies for atherosclerosis include the use of statins, which help to regulate cholesterol levels. However, these drugs only help to keep the condition in check; they don't reverse it.

New research, however, shows that one day, reversing this condition could be possible. Dr. Neel A. Mansukhani — an integrated vascular surgery fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL — led a study in which synthetically created nanofibers were used in a mouse model of atherosclerosis.

The injection successfully targeted the buildup of cholesterol and led to the breaking up of plaque. The findings were presented at the American Heart Association's conference Vascular Discovery: From Genes to Medicine Scientific Sessions 2018, held in San Francisco, CA.

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Dr. Mansukhani explains how the researchers decided to design very small fibers that contained cholesterol-removing particles. "Our aim," he says, "was to develop a non-invasive, non-surgical, novel therapy to halt and reverse the disease by actually targeting the vessel wall with peptide-based nanofibers developed in the laboratory."

The authors explain that the small fibers contain a key amino acid sequence that melts down the cholesterol.

To test the newly designed substance, Dr. Mansukhani and team genetically engineered mice to have atherosclerosis. Then, they placed the mice on a high-fat diet for 14 weeks.

After the 14 weeks, some of the rodents were injected with the nanofibers and some with saline water biweekly for 8 weeks.

"[F]irst we wanted to confirm that the therapy actually targeted areas of atherosclerosis," says Dr. Mansukhani. To this end, he and his team used imaging techniques to trace the effect of the therapeutic substance in the rodents' bodies.

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The effects were noticeable after 24 hours, lasted up to 72 hours, and were completely gone in 7–10 days.

Overall, at the end of the 8-week treatment period, the plaque in the male mice decreased by 11 percent, and that in the females dropped by 9 percent.

"[The results] demonstrate that a novel targeted nanofiber binds specifically to atherosclerotic lesions and reduces plaque burden after a short treatment duration."

Dr. Neel A. Mansukhani

Despite these promising results, the authors caution that the findings are just preliminary, and that more tests are required before the innovative method can be trialed in humans.

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