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Omega-3s again linked to lower heart failure risk

By Stephen Daniells , 24-Sep-2012
Last updated on 24-Sep-2012 at 16:25 GMT2012-09-24T16:25:05Z

Omega-3s again linked to lower heart failure risk

Consuming fish at least once a month, and increased blood levels of  ALA and DPA, may reduce the risk of heart failure, says a new study that adds to the heart health benefits of omega-3.

Data from over 20,000 people indicated that higher blood levels of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) had a 34% lower risk, compared with people with lower levels, according to findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In addition, the higher average levels of DPA (docosapentaenoic acid) were associated with a 45% reduction, compared with lower levels, report researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and the University of Minnesota.

However, blood levels of EPA and DHA were not associated with heart failure risk, they added.


The heart health benefits of fish oil, and the omega-3 fatty acids it contains, are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s by Dr Jorn Dyerberg  and his co-workers in The Lancet and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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.


Commenting on the study’s findings, Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory and scientific affairs for GOED, told NutraIngredients-USA that the results corroborate previous findings from the Cardiovascular Health Study demonstrating a lower risk of heart failure associated with modest fish intake.

“With respect to heart failure and Omega-3s, think GISSI-HF, a randomized clinical trial in which long-term administration of 1g/day of long-chain omega-3s (compared to placebo) to nearly 7000 patients with heart failure was effective in significantly reducing all-cause mortality.

“The results were particularly impressive when you consider that patients were being maintained on cocktails of cardio drugs.”

Study details

The Boston- and Minnesota-based researchers analyzed data from 1,572 people from a case-control study, and 19,097 people from a cohort. The mean age of the people at the time of the blood collection was 58.7.

Results showed that at least one serving of fish per month was associated with a 30% reduction in heart failure risk. There was a trend toward a lower risk for increased intakes of marine fatty acids, but this did not reach statistical significance.

“Because the study participants were male physicians, it is unclear whether the results are generalizable to women and the general population,” wrote the researchers.

“Our data are consistent with an inverse and nonlinear relation of plasma phospholipid ALA and DPA, but not EPA and DHA, with heart failure risk. Fish consumption greater than once per month was associated with a lower risk of heart failure.”

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.042671
“Plasma and dietary omega-3 fatty acids, fish intake, and heart failure risk in the Physicians’ Health Study”
Authors: J.B. Wilk, M.Y. Tsai, N.Q. Hanson, J.M. Gaziano, L. Djousse

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