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Fish Oil Reduces Blood Viscosity
A study published in the British Medical Journal demonstrated that supplementation of fish oil reduced both systolic and diastolic blood viscosity values by 15%.
The first study was a double blind randomized trial of nineteen patients with intermittent claudication (15 men and 4 women, aged 56 to 75 years) who received either a fish oil rich in eicosopentaenoic acid or an identical capsule containing a mixture of corn and olive oil. Five capsules were given twice daily for seven weeks and rheological measurements were obtained at the beginning of the study and after the seven weeks of supplementation.
The group of nineteen patients had baseline systolic and diastolic blood viscosity values that were 22.4% and 23.5% higher than those of normal controls, respectively. After the seven weeks of treatment with fish oil, the systolic and diastolic viscosity levels fell 14.6% and 15.2%. It remains possible that a longer treatment period could potentially cause the levels to be reduced to those of healthy controls.
The study was undertaken largely in response to research that demonstrates a low incidence of myocardial infarction and low mortality from coronary artery disease in Greenlandic Eskimos, believed to be related their high dietary intake of the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid. Because there was no reduction in packed cell volume or plasma viscosity in the study, the reduction in whole blood viscosity appears to be due, at least in part, to changes in the red cell membrane. Supplementation with this fatty acid has been shown to increase the eicosapentaenoic acid content in red cell membranes, which has been correlated with increases in red cell deformability.
The authors of the study state that, “the beneficial effect of fish oil on whole blood viscosity in patients with peripheral vascular disease suggests a potential therapeutic role in such patients, as there is evidence that rheological factors are important in determining clinical events.”