Digestive Care Expert Brenda Watson

Omega-3 May Protect Against Coronary Calcification

Heart disease is the number-one cause of death in the United States. Coronary heart disease (CHD), also known as atherosclerosis, is the most common form of heart disease, killing more than 385,000 people each year.1 CHD rates in Japan are much lower than in the United States and other developed countries. One possible explanation for this difference is the high intake of omega-3 fatty acids by the Japanese, who average 1,000 mg per day compared to 100 mg per day in the Standard American Diet (SAD).2

The process of atherosclerosis that occurs in people with coronary heart disease involves a progression from endothelial dysfunction (damage to the artery wall), immune activation and inflammation. These physiological changes lead to deposits of fats, minerals (including calcium), and oxidized LDL, all contributing to plaque development with a calcified arterial wall with a fibrous cap. Finally, rupture of the fibrous plaque leads to blood clotting that can occlude (block) a coronary artery, which then causes a heart attack.

The deposition of calcium in atherosclerotic plaques is now recognized to play a large role in formation of advanced plaques (read: more dangerous plaques) in the arteries. The amount of calcium in the arteries correlates with the amount of atherosclerosis. The greater amount of calcification in the arteries, the greater is the likelihood of artery blockage.3

The deposition of calcium in the arteries occurs in much the same way as it does in bone. Researchers are trying to figure out how to prevent, halt, and reverse this process, and they are finding that omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect. In a recent study published in the journal Heart, higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were found to account for the lower incidence of coronary artery calcification seen in Japanese men compared to white men in the United States.4

Omega-3 fatty acids are well known to have a wide range of beneficial effects on the heart, including suppression of inflammation, improvement of endothelial function (remember that endothelial dysfunction is the earliest stage of atherosclerosis), reduction of blood clots, and improvement of plaque stability (remember that rupturing of the fibrous cap portion leads to heart attack).

The researchers conclude, “Higher doses of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids than that used in recent randomized clinical trials of [omega-3] on cardiovascular disease [which are around 1,000 mg daily] may potentially have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease.”

Omega-3 fatty acids—particularly EPA and DHA—are good for the heart, simple as that. If you are not taking them and are not eating salmon and sardines a couple times per day, every day, then you should consider a high-concentration, purity-guaranteed fish oil supplement.


  1. http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  2. Stamler J, Elliot P, Chan Q, et al., “Intermap appendix tables.” J Hum Hypertension. 2003;17:665–775.
  3. Wexler L, Brundage B, Crouse J, et al., “Coronary artery calcification: pathophysiology, epidemiology, imaging methods, and clinical implications. A statement for health professionals from the American Heart Association. Writing Group.” Circulation. 1996 Sep 1;94(5):1175–92.
  4. Sekikawa A, Miura K, Lee S, et al., “Long chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and incidence rate of coronary artery calcification in Japanese men in Japan and white men in the USA: population based prospective cohort study.” Heart. 2014 Apr;100(7):569–73.



Written by Leonard Smith, M.D.

Dr. Leonard Smith is a prominent Board-Certified, general, gastrointestinal and vascular surgeon who had a successful private practice for 25 years. In addition to his active surgery practice, he also incorporated lifestyle, diet, supplementation, exercise, detoxification, and stress management into many of the therapies he would prescribe. Many of his patients with cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other serious illnesses did so well under his treatment regimes that he began to devote most of his career to foundational health care and preventive medicine.

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  • edmaster

    Brenda I used to eat wrong and drink a lot. About a year ago I stopped all that nonsense and have lost 60 lbs. I am 57 years old. Anyway what you Sow, you reap. I went for a heart scan via a $22.00 coupon on Groupon since I have no insurance.

    My agasston calcium score came back as 1468. My understanding is 400 is very bad. This gives me a heart of a 92 year old. I have told my 3 adult children to prepare them.I started my research and have started eating recommend heart foods. I have no symptoms like chest pains and shortness of breath, I just get tired a lot. Anyway just wanted to tell my story maybe it will help someone. I am at peace and figure I will die soon. Like I said what you reap, you sow.
    BTW you can share my story publicly if it helps but please hide my indentity.

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