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Fish Omega-3s Beats Plant Omega-3s in Heart Health Trials
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Study in elderly finds greater reduction in risk of arrhythmia, sudden death

by Craig Weatherby

Two new studies confirm the value of the marine omega-3s in fish oil (DHA and EPA) to heart health, and emphasize their superiority to plant-derived omega-3s in foods like soy oil.

A team led by Dr. Fernando Holguin, an assistant professor of medicine at Atlanta’s Emory University School of Medicine, tested the effects of fish oil or soy oil in elderly nursing home residents.

During an 11-week period, half of the study participants took a daily 2 gram supplement of fish oil capsules, which contain marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids, while the other half took a daily 2 gram supplement of soy oil capsules, which contain plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid).

For six months following the 11-week supplementation period, participants were subjected to regular cardiac function tests.

The researchers found that both oils improved heart function by providing greater variability between beats: an effect that reduces the risk of arrhythmia and sudden death.

The researchers concluded that supplementation with 2 grams (2,000 mg) of fish oil daily yielded a greater increase in heart rate variability in less time, compared with 2 grams of soy oil.

In other words, the omega-3s in fish oil appear superior to the omega-3s in soy oil, in terms of reducing the risk of arrhythmia and sudden death in older people.

Smog-related heart-risk also undercut better by fish oil

Last year, the same research team examined the smog-protection effects of fish and soy oil in another group of elderly nursing home residents breathing the badly polluted air of Mexico City.

The volunteers received a one-gram oil capsule twice a day, with half taking fish oil and the rest receiving soy oil capsules.

The fish oil proved superior to soy oil for enhancing heart rate variability. Dr. Holguin was quoted as saying, "Those on soy oil had just marginal protection, while those on fish oil had a complete abolishment of the effect of the [smog] particles on the heart."


  • Holguin F, Tellez-Rojo MM, Lazo M, Mannino D, Schwartz J, Hernandez M, Romieu I. Cardiac Autonomic Changes Associated With Fish Oil vs Soy Oil Supplementation in the Elderly. Chest. 2005 Apr;127(4):1102-7.

  • F. Holguin, M.M. Tellez-Rojo, M. Lazo, M. Cortez, M. Hernandez, D.M. Mannino, S.C. Redd, I. Romieu. Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Elderly Subjects and Heart Rate Variability Associated with Environmental Exposure to PM2.5: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study. [C93] [Poster: 306] Poster Discussion Session (Abstract Page: A722) Tuesday, May 25, 2004 Anaheim, CA.
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