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Omega-3s show heart benefits for non-fish eaters

By Stephen Daniells , 31-Mar-2010
Last updated on 31-Mar-2010 at 15:17 GMT2010-03-31T15:17:57Z

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

Daily intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) of about 240 milligrams was associated with a 50 per cent reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), compared with intakes of about 40 milligrams, according to findings published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Furthermore, the highest average intake of DHA and EPA was associated with a 38 per cent reduction in the heart attack, said researchers from Wageningen University following a study with over 21,000 people with low fish intakes.

The heart health benefits of consuming oily fish, and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s by 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.

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 behaviour and mood.

Study details

Intakes of EPA plus DHA, and fish were assessed in 21,342 people aged between 20 and 65. Fish intakes ranged from 1.1 to 17.3 grams per day. Over the course of an average of 11.3 years, the researchers documented 647 deaths, of which 82 were linked to coronary heart disease, 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 per cent reduction in the risk of fatal CHD, compared to the lowest average intake (40 mg per day).

“In conclusion, in populations with a low fish consumption, EPA+DHA and fish may lower fatal CHD and [heart attack] risk in a dose-responsive manner,” wrote the researchers.

Benefiting from omega-3-containing supplements has never been easier: Omega-3 is one of the nutrition industry’s major successes, with the ingredients market valued at a whopping $1.6 billion by Frost & Sullivan.

Source: Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.3945/jn.109.119271
“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”
Authors: J. de Goede, J.M. Geleijnse, J.M. A. Boer, D. Kromhout, W. M.M. Verschuren

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