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Fish, Omega-3s, and Heart Health
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Savory seafood may save your life
by Randy Hartnell

I’m sure you’re aware that health experts consider fish very good for heart health. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), "Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the hearts of healthy people, and those at high risk of—or who have—cardiovascular disease. We recommend eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times a week… fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon are high in two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)."

But do you know who benefits most, how much to eat, or how fish helps protect heart health?

Who needs fish?
Here is the AHA’s "Summary of Recommendations for Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake":
  • Patients free of coronary heart disease (CHD): Eat a variety of (preferably fatty) fish at least twice a week. Include oils and foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid (flaxseed, canola and soybean oils; flaxseed and walnuts). The AHA specifies that consuming 0.5 to 1.8 grams per day of EPA+DHA (either as fatty fish or supplements) significantly reduces deaths from heart disease and all causes. NOTE: Each 3.5 ounce serving of Vital Choice Wild Sockeye salmon contains a minimum of 1.2 grams of EPA+DHA, so one to two servings/week would suffice.

  • Patients with documented CHD: Consume approximately 1 gram (0.04 oz.) of EPA+DHA per day, preferably from fatty fish. EPA+DHA supplements* could be considered in consultation with your physician.

  • Patients who need to lower blood triglyceride (fat) levels: Take 2 to 4 grams of EPA+DHA per day, as capsules* under a physician’s care.
*The AHA adds this caution: "Patients taking more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from supplements should do so only under a physician’s care. Higher intakes could cause excessive bleeding in some people."

How does fish help?
Most large-scale epidemiological (population) studies have found that people at risk for coronary heart disease may benefit from consuming fish and marine mammals high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Now, the latest clinical research confirms that a myriad of cardiovascular health benefits flow from sufficient dietary intake of omega-3s:

Improved cardiovascular outcomes
  • Reduce the risk of arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm), which cause about 240,000 sudden deaths in the U.S. per year

  • Reduce the risk of a first heart attack among those who eat fish twice a week (most studies)

  • Reduce the risk of death after a first heart attack: A major European study known as the GISSI showed that survivors who consumed 850-889 mg of EPA+DHA/day, sudden deaths within 4 months decreased by 45 percent, total cardiovascular deaths dropped by 30 percent, and deaths from all causes within 3 months dropped by 20 percent

  • Reduce the risk of ischemic stroke by 45 percent in men aged 40-75 who eat fish 1-3 times a month

  • Reduces the risk of thrombotic stroke

Reduced cardiovascular risk factors
  • Reduce tendency toward arrhythmia

  • Reduce excess reactivity in cells lining the blood vessels, thereby reducing inflammatory responses

  • Reduce system-wide inflammation, which is an important risk factor in CHD, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension

  • Relax blood vessel walls, which improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure

  • Reduce the tendency toward excessive blood clotting (platelet aggregation)

  • Lower blood triglyceride levels

  • Decrease the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque

  • Lower blood pressure (slightly)
Are fish-oil capsules as good as fish?
The results of controlled clinical trials indicate that omega-3 (i.e., fish oil) supplements can reduce cardiovascular deaths, non-fatal heart attacks, non-fatal strokes, and the progression of atherosclerosis in coronary patients.

According to the AHA, "Increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake through foods is preferable. However, coronary artery disease patients may not be able to get enough omega-3 by diet alone. These people may want to talk to their doctor about taking a supplement. Supplements also could help people with high triglycerides, who need even larger doses. The availability of high-quality omega-3 fatty acid supplements, free of contaminants, is an important prerequisite to their use."

NOTE: We will soon be introducing our own Vital Choice Omega-3 capsules, containing pure, lab-tested sockeye salmon oil: we’ll let you know as soon as they arrive!

  • Bucher HC, Hengstler P, Schindler C, Meier G. N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Med. 2002 Mar;112(4):298-304.

  • American Heart Association, Inc. Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Web site page as of March 10, 2004.

  • Skerrett PJ, Hennekens CH. Consumption of fish and fish oils and decreased risk of stroke. Prev Cardiol. 2003 Winter;6(1):38-41. Review.

  • Di Minno G, Tufano A, Garofano T, Di Minno MN. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, thrombosis and vascular disease. Pathophysiol Haemost Thromb. 2002 Sep-Dec;32(5-6):361-4. Review.

  • Marchioli R, Barzi F, Bomba E, et al; GISSI-Prevenzione Investigators. Early protection against sudden death by n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids after myocardial infarction: time-course analysis of the results of the Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell'Infarto Miocardico (GISSI)-Prevenzione. Circulation. 2002 Apr 23;105(16):1897-903.

  • Stone NJ. The Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell'Infarto Miocardio (GISSI)-Prevenzione Trial on fish oil and vitamin E supplementation in myocardial infarction survivors. Curr Cardiol Rep. 2000 Sep;2(5):445-51. Review.

  • Di Minno G, Tufano A, Garofano T, Di Minno MN. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, thrombosis and vascular disease. Pathophysiol Haemost Thromb. 2002 Sep-Dec;32(5-6):361-4. Review.

  • Zock PL, Kromhout D. [Nutrition and health--fish fatty acids against fatal coronary heart disease] Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2002 Nov 23;146(47):2229-33. Review. Dutch.

  • Demaison L, Moreau D. Dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and coronary heart disease-related mortality: a possible mechanism of action. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2002 Mar;59(3):463-77. Review.

  • Leaf A, Xiao YF, Kang JX, Billman GE. Prevention of sudden cardiac death by n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Jun;98(3):355-77. Review.

  • Yaqoob P, Calder PC. N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammation in the arterial wall. Eur J Med Res. 2003 Aug 20;8(8):337-54.

  • Dwyer JH, Allayee H, Dwyer KM, Fan J, Wu H, Mar R, Lusis AJ, Mehrabian M. Arachidonate 5-lipoxygenase promoter genotype, dietary arachidonic acid, and atherosclerosis. N Engl J Med. 2004 Jan 1;350(1):29-37.

  • Abeywardena MY, Head RJ. Longchain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and blood vessel function. Cardiovasc Res. 2001 Dec;52(3):361-71. Review.

  • Hirafuji M, Machida T, Hamaue N, Minami M. Cardiovascular protective effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with special emphasis on docosahexaenoic acid. J Pharmacol Sci. 2003 Aug;92(4):308-16.
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