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Fish Affirmed as Heart-Failure Fighter
Heart failure – also called congestive heart failure (CHF) – simply means that your heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to the rest of the body … especially when you're active.
The most common cause is coronary artery disease, which is characterized by a narrowing of small vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.
According to the American Heart Association, one in five people develop CHF after the age of 40, and about half will die within five years.
Most of the population studies published to date – and a few clinical trials – have linked higher fish or omega-3 intakes to a reduced risk of developing CHF.
Findings support
top epidemiologists' view
The Boston team's conclusions fit with a mass of encouraging evidence regarding omega-3s' potential to help prevent or ameliorate heart failure.
Earlier this month, we attended a Boston conference (GOED Exchange) featuring, among other scientific luminaries, fish-and-health expert Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., from the Harvard University School of Public Health.
(The speakers included “America's pediatrician”, William Sears, M.D., who's just finished a much-anticipated book on omega-3s and health … which we'll review when it's publicly available.)
As Dr. Mozaffarian told us and our fellow attendees, “The main benefits for omega-3s are for preventing cardiac death. Fish and omega-3s should be the first line of defense ...”
He noted that the average American only gets 50-75mg per day of long-chain omega-3s (EPA + DHA), which are found only in seafood or supplements.
Yet, as he added, health authorities worldwide recommend daily omega-3 intakes ranging from 250mg to 500mg … with higher intakes often advised for people with diagnosed heart disease.
Recently, scientists from Boston reviewed the evidence published to date, and estimated the approximate drop in CHF risk among people with high self-reported fish intakes.
Boston team estimates a 15% fish-related fall in the risk of heart failure
Researchers from Brigham & Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and veterans' health agencies analyzed seven “prospective” studies, in which they or other researchers followed 176,441 volunteers for a substantial numbers of years (Djoussé L et al. 2012).
In each study, the subjects completed diet questionnaires and provided access to their health records.
The Boston group compared the participants' self-reported fish consumption habits to their heart-health records, to look for any statistical associations between the two.
Compared to people with the lowest reported fish intakes, those with the highest intakes were 15 percent less likely to develop heart failure by the end of their particular study.
And, those with the highest estimated omega-3 intakes (EPA + DHA, from seafood) were 14 percent less likely to do so.
More specifically, the risk of heart failure dropped by five percent for every 15 gram increase in daily fish consumption.
Similarly, the risk of heart failure fell by three percent with every 125mg rise in estimated daily omega-3 (EPA + DHA) intake.
The Boston group noted that fish and their omega-3s have been separately linked to lower blood levels of triglycerides and improved cholesterol profiles ... which could help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and the congestive heart failure that often results.
In addition, seafood-source omega-3s appear to normalize heart rhythms, reduce inflammation, and support the health of the large ventricular chambers, which pump blood to the whole body.
As they concluded, “This meta-analysis is consistent with a lower risk of heart failure with intake of marine omega-3 fatty acids. If confirmed in a large, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial, [omega-3] EPA/DHA could be added to the list of lifestyle factors and pharmacological agents that can be used for the primary prevention of heart failure.” (Djoussé L et al. 2012)
We hope that the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) will fund clinical trials, and assuming positive outcomes that mainstream medical advice will progess accordingly!
  • Belin RJ, Greenland P, Martin L, et al. Fish intake and the risk of incident heart failure: The Women's Health Initiative. Circ Heart Fail. 2011; DOI:10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.110.960450.
  • Busko M. Baked/broiled fish reduces HF, fried fish ups risk. May 25, 2011. Accessed at
  • Djoussé L, Akinkuolie AO, Wu JH, Ding EL, Gaziano JM. Fish consumption, omega-3 fatty acids and risk of heart failure: A meta-analysis. Clin Nutr. 2012 Jun 6. [Epub ahead of print]
  • European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Eating fatty fish and marine omega-3 fatty acids may reduce risk of heart failure. April 22, 2009. Accessed online at
  • Freeman LM, Rush JE, Kehayias JJ, Ross JN Jr, Meydani SN, Brown DJ, Dolnikowski GG, Marmor BN, White ME, Dinarello CA, Roubenoff R. Nutritional alterations and the effect of fish oil supplementation in dogs with heart failure. J Vet Intern Med. 1998 Nov-Dec;12(6):440-8.
  • Gissi-HF Investigators, Tavazzi L, Maggioni AP, Marchioli R, Barlera S, Franzosi MG, Latini R, Lucci D, Nicolosi GL, Porcu M, Tognoni G. Effect of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in patients with chronic heart failure (the GISSI-HF trial): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2008 Oct 4;372(9645):1223-30. Epub 2008 Aug 29.
  • Lau DH, Psaltis PJ, Carbone A, Kelly DJ, Mackenzie L, Worthington M, Metcalf RG, Kuklik P, Nelson AJ, Zhang Y, Wong CX, Brooks AG, Saint DA, James MJ, Edwards J, Young GD, Worthley SG, Sanders P. Atrial Protective Effects of n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: A Long Term Study in Ovine Chronic Heart Failure. Heart Rhythm. 2010 Dec 7. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Levitan EB, Wolk A, Mittleman MA. Fatty fish, marine omega-3 fatty acids and incidence of heart failure. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar 24. [Epub ahead of print]
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  • Marchioli R, Levantesi G, Silletta MG, Barlera S, Bernardinangeli M, Carbonieri E, Cosmi F, Franzosi MG, Latini R, Lucci D, Maggioni AP, Moretti L, Nicolosi GL, Porcu M, Rossi MG, Tognoni G, Tavazzi L; GISSI-HF Investigators. Effect of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and rosuvastatin in patients with heart failure: results of the GISSI-HF trial. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2009 Jul;7(7):735-48.
  • (MNT). Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Reduce Mortality And Hospital Admission In Patients With Heart Failure, Statins Show No Effect. 31 Aug 2008. Accessed online August 31, 2008 at
  • Mehra MR, Lavie CJ, Ventura HO, Milani RV. Fish oils produce anti-inflammatory effects and improve body weight in severe heart failure. J Heart Lung Transplant. 2006 Jul;25(7):834-8. Epub 2006 May 24.
  • Mehra MR, Lavie CJ, Ventura HO, Milani RV. Fish oils produce anti-inflammatory effects and improve body weight in severe heart failure. J Heart Lung Transplant. 2006 Jul;25(7):834-8. Epub 2006 May 24.
  • Mozaffarian D, Bryson CL, Lemaitre RN, Burke GL, Siscovick DS. Fish intake and risk of incident heart failure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2005 Jun 21;45(12):2015-21.
  • Nodari S, Triggiani M, Campia U, Manerba A, Milesi G, Cesana BM, Gheorghiade M, Dei Cas L. Effects of n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Left Ventricular Function and Functional Capacity in Patients With Dilated Cardiomyopathy. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010 Dec 29. [Epub ahead of print]

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