The omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil have long been thought to protect against cardiovascular disease -- so much so that the American Heart Association currently recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week, particularly fatty varieties rich in omega 3s.
However, the mechanism behind this protective effect still remains a mystery.
In a new study on 67 adult volunteers, scientists led by Jason R. Carter of Michigan Technological University shed light on this phenomenon by providing evidence that fish oil might specifically counteract the detrimental effects of mental stress on the heart.
Their findings show that volunteers who took fish oil supplements for several weeks had a blunted response to mental stress in several measurements of cardiovascular health, including heart rate and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), part of the "fight or flight" response, compared to volunteers who took olive oil instead.
The results may explain why taking fish oil could be beneficial to the heart and might eventually help doctors prevent heart disease in select populations.
The above story is based on the May 22, 2013 news release by American Physiological Society (APS).
The paper has been published in AJP-- Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society:
Carter JR, Schwartz CE, Yang H, Joyner MJ. Fish oil and neurovascular reactivity to mental stress in humans. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013; 304 (7): R523 DOI: 10.1152/ajpregu.00031.2013