Omega-3 fatty acids benefit heart health for non-fish eaters

March 31, 2010

Increased intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the risk of heart disease and heart attack in people with low fish intakes, according to a new study.

In the study, intakes of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and fish were assessed in 21,342 people aged between 20 and 65 (1). Over the course of an average of 11.3 years, the researchers documented 647 deaths, of which 82 were linked to coronary heart disease (CHD), with 64 of these being heart attack.

According to the results, the highest average intake of EPA plus DHA (234 milligrams per day) was associated with a 51 percent reduction in the risk of fatal CHD, compared to the lowest average intake (40 mg per day), in people with low fish intakes (1.1 to 17.3 grams per day). Furthermore, the highest average intake of DHA and EPA was associated with a 38 percent reduction in the heart attack.

In conclusion, in populations with low fish consumption, EPA plus DHA and fish may lower fatal CHD and heart attack risk in a dose-responsive manner, the researchers commented.

The heart health benefits of consuming oily fish, and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, are well-documented. To date, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to improvements in blood lipid levels, a reduced tendency of thrombosis, blood pressure and heart rate improvements, and improved vascular function. Omega-3 fatty acids, most notably DHA and EPA, have been linked to a wide-range of health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and certain cancers, good development of a baby during pregnancy, joint health, and improved behavior and mood.

References

  1. de Goede J. et al. Marine (n-3) Fatty Acids, Fish Consumption, and the 10-Year Risk of Fatal and Nonfatal Coronary Heart Disease in a Large Population of Dutch Adults with a Low Fish Intake. Journal of Nutrition. 2010.