PAD patients could have omega-3 deficiency, new research shows

People who have peripheral artery disease (PAD) have a lower omega-3 index compared to those who don't have the disease, according to new research published in the journal Lipids.

In the study, researchers compared the omega-3 index in 145 patients with PAD and 34 patients without PAD. They found the omega-3 index was significantly lower in the PAD patients, 5 percent versus 6 percent, respectively. When researchers controlled for other patient characteristics that might have influenced these findings, such as age, smoking, blood pressure, diabetes, and drugs, the omega-3 index was still lower in PAD patients, according to the study.

In the final analysis, for every 1 percent reduction in the omega-3 index, the odds of being a PAD patient increased by 39 percent, and for every additional pack-year of smoking the odds of being a PAD case increased by 4 percent.

"It is likely that the lower inflammatory burden associated with a higher omega-3 index may be part of the explanation for these results," said Bill Harris, PhD, one of the study's authors.

PAD is a disease that affects the blood vessels outside the heart and brain. Evidence from other studies suggests that omega-3s affect many steps of the atherosclerotic process. More specifically, they improve endothelial function; promote vasodilatation through relaxation of smooth muscle cells; exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antithrombotic actions; delay development of plaques and increase their stability; and decrease wall stiffening.

Because PAD is essentially atherosclerosis of the leg arteries, researchers in this study believe that patients with PAD may have an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency.

"Whether long-term use of omega-3 supplements or increased consumption of oily fish could prevent the development of PAD,” Harris said, “should be examined in future studies."