Some health claims pertaining to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are now permitted, according to the recent issue of the Official Journal of the European Union (EU).
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in salmon, tuna, and other types of fish. It is in the same family as other omega-3 fatty acids found in plant foods like flax, soy, and walnuts. In the human body, the highest levels of DHA are found in the brain, eyes, and sperm. DHA has been studied for preventing heart attack risk factors such as high cholesterol. However, some research found that DHA may increase levels of "bad" cholesterol. DHA has also been studied for improving brain and eye function, infant development, health during pregnancy, and mental disorders. Low levels of DHA have been linked to a higher risk of some conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer's disease, and depression.
Fish oil contains DHA in addition to another omega-3 fatty acid, EPA. Omega-3 fatty acids have long been known to play critical roles in growth but have more recently been suggested as providing a wide range of health benefits, several of which are well supported in the literature, including reductions in the risk of coronary heart disease and regulating cholesterol. Evidence from multiple large-scale population (epidemiologic) studies and randomized controlled trials suggests that intake of recommended amounts of DHA and EPA in the form of dietary fish or fish oil supplements may lower triglycerides and reduce mortality, and the risk of myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, and stroke in people with known cardiovascular disease. They may also slow the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques ("hardening of the arteries") and may lower blood pressure slightly.
The June issue of the EU presents some health claims surrounding DHA and EPA that are now approved.
The claim that DHA and DHA/EPA combined may help maintain normal blood triglyceride levels has been approved with some conditions. The claim may only be used for food that provides two grams of DHA daily and contains DHA in combination with EPA. Products that display this claim must inform consumers that the benefit may be obtained with DHA intake of two grams daily. Food supplements or fortified foods that display this claim should warn consumers not to exceed more than five grams of EPA and DHA combined daily. The claim has not been approved for any food products targeting children.
The claim that DHA/EPA may help contribute to maintaining normal blood pressure has been approved with some conditions. Products that display this claim must provide a daily intake of three grams of DHA and EPA. These products must also inform consumers that the benefit may be obtained through the daily intake of three grams of DHA and EPA. Food supplements or fortified foods that use this claim should also warn consumers not to exceed a supplemental intake of five grams daily of DHA and EPA combined. The claim has not been approved for any food products targeting children.
Many other integrative therapies have been studied for use in lowering blood pressure and triglycerides. In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, there is strong scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of garlic, magnesium, and yoga in treating high blood pressure. In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, there is strong scientific evidence supporting the use of beta-glucan, beta-sitosterol, folate, garlic, guar gum, konjac glucomannan, niacin, plant sterols, psyllium, red yeast rice, and soy for high triglycerides and related conditions.
For more information about omega-3 fatty acids, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.
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