Fish Oil and Heart Health

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. There is ample evidence that frequent fish consumption or supplementation with fish oils markedly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, sudden cardiac death, and heart attacks in men. Up until now there has been little work done to see if the same holds true for women. Researchers at the Harvard Public School of Health have just released the results of a major study aimed at remedying this situation.

The study involved 84,688 female nurses who were enrolled in 1970. All participants completed food frequency questionnaires in 1980, 1984, 1986, 1990 and 1994. In the 16-year period between 1980 and 1996 a total of 1513 women either died from coronary heart disease (484) or suffered a non-fatal heart attack (1029). After adjusting for age, smoking and other known cardiovascular risk factors the researchers conclude that women who eat fish once a week have a 34 per cent lower incidence of death from heart disease and a 25 per cent lower incidence of non-fatal heart attacks. They also conclude that the protective effect of fish consumption is entirely due to the content of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils) in the fish. They also note that both fish and fish oil consumption were associated with a decreased risk of dying from any cause. The researchers believe that fish oils reduce the incidence of heart disease through their antiarrhythmic effects and their reduction of platelet aggregability and triglyceride levels. They conclude that their findings lend further support to the benefits of twice weekly fish consumption.
Hu, Frank B., et al. Fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 287, April 10, 2002, pp. 1815-21

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