A diet of oily fish, nuts and seeds can reduce the likelihood of heart attacks by as much as ten per cent, according to research by the Fatty Acids and Outcomes Research Consortium.
The researchers pooled data from 19 studies which compared levels of omega-3 fatty acids with heart attack rates.
The research, which has been published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that plant- and seafood-based omega-3 is associated with a 10 per cent lower risk of fatal heart attacks.
The study’s lead author, Dr Liana Del Gobbo, said: ‘Across these diverse studies, findings were also consistent by age, sex, race, presence or absence of diabetes, and use of aspirin or cholesterol-lowering medications.
‘At a time when some but not other trials of fish oil supplementation have shown benefits, there is uncertainty about cardiovascular effects of omega-3s.
‘Our results lend support to the importance of fish and omega-3 consumption as part of a healthy diet.’
We know from randomised controlled trials that omega-3 fatty acids can decrease triglyceride levels, blood pressure, heart rate and heart muscle oxygen demand and hence the risk for coronary artery disease.
This meta-analysis looked at the relationship between blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, ALA) and coronary heart disease (fatal and non-fatal heart attacks in patients with coronary heart disease).
The average follow up was 10 years; patients had a variety of risk factors with medication use varying across the studies.
Controlling for other factors, each individual fatty acid was associated with a nine per cent decrease in the risk of a fatal heart attack; cumulatively, all three were associated with an 11 per cent decrease in the same outcome. We should remember that we are talking about patients already at high risk for adverse outcomes, so the results of this study are significant.
In conclusion, the consumption of fatty fish and possibly supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids should be encouraged in patients with pre-existing heart disease.
Bear in mind that fried or battered fish shouldn’t be encouraged as commercially most is fried in seed oils that, while touted as healthy, in reality contain more omega-6 fatty acids which contribute towards inflammation and potentially heart disease.
Research score: 4/5