Two Harvard studies provide firm evidence that the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, sardines or tuna can have a beneficial effect on heart health.
Fish oil can be obtained from eating fish or by taking supplements. Fish that are especially rich in the beneficial oils known as omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, herring, tuna, salmon, cod liver, whale blubber, and seal blubber. Two of the most important omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Make sure to see separate listings on EPA and DHA, as well as Cod Liver Oil, and Shark Liver Oil.
Eating more fish or taking a fish oil supplement can reduce your risk of a heart attack, according to a pair of Harvard-led clinical trials.
Heart benefits from omega-3 fatty acids were found both in healthy people and in people with conditions that put them at increased risk of heart attack, stroke or heart disease, the two studies found.
Fish Oil Supplement Benefits
The Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL) found that healthy people who took a fish oil supplement suffered fewer heart attacks, particularly if they were black or did not regularly eat fish.
Meanwhile, a purified form of omega-3 fatty acid reduced the risk of death by heart disease, heart attack or stroke in people with hardened arteries or other heart risk factors, according to findings from the Reduction of Cardiovascular Events with Icosapent Ethyl Intervention Trial (REDUCE-IT).
Interestingly, research suggests that fish oil supplements can prevent the onset or improve the symptoms of some mental disorders. For example, it can reduce the chances of psychotic disorders in those who are at risk
“We’re not recommending that everyone in the world begin taking fish oil supplements. In terms of the omega 3s, the best thing to do is to try to have more dietary fish,” Manson said. “If people aren’t going to eat fish, there really may be some benefits from taking a fish oil supplement. We recommend they discuss that with their health care provider.”
Results from both clinical trials were to be presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, in Chicago, and will be published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The clinical trial found no heart health benefit from vitamin D, although it did reduce the risk of cancer death by 25%.
In the REDUCE-IT trial, another research team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital tested the benefits of a pure and stable form of the omega-3 fatty acid known as EPA.
The supplement, icosapent ethyl, is a prescription medication approved to reduce triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol
Dr Satjit Bhusri is a cardiologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “This is a very important and impressive trial. Its results will have a lasting change in the prevention of heart disease,” said Bhusri, who was not involved with the studies. “A reduction in heart attacks this profound has not seen been since in primary prevention since the early trials of aspirin therapy.”
REDUCE-IT included more than 8 000 patients taking statins to lower their cholesterol and prevent either a first or repeat heart attack or stroke. About seven in 10 patients in the study had hardened arteries, while the rest had diabetes and at least one other heart risk factor.
People taking icosapent ethyl had a 20% reduction in their risk of heart-related death, a 31% reduction in heart attack and a 28% reduction in stroke, compared to those given a placebo, researchers found.