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Omega-3’s lower heart attack risk

The study is based on a review of published data and was undertaken by a scientific consortium. The various research strands looked at levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood and correlated the levels with each individual’s history of heart disease and whether they experienced a heart attack.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fats. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids useful to humans. These are: α-linolenic acid (ALA) (found in plant oils like walnuts and flaxseed oil), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (both commonly found in fish oils). The types of fish with the highest levels are salmon, trout, anchovies, sardines and herring.

The research was carried out by the Fatty acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCE). This group of international scientists discovered that a higher consumption of plant and seafood-derived omega-3 fatty acids was linked to a lower risk of dying from a heart attack. While this finding is important, the benefit of taking supplements of the fatty acids or consuming foods rich in them was only assessed as ‘moderate.’

In total 19 different studies were assessed. This captured 45,637 participants. Of this subject group, 7,973 of these people experienced a heart attack and 2,781 died. Here, those with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids were 10 percent less likely to experience a heart attack, according to the research leads Dr. Liana C. Del Gobbo and Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian. The 10 percent factor took account of age, gender and various lifestyle factors.

Commenting further, Dr. Gobbo told BioScience Technology: “These new results, including many studies which previously had not reported their findings, provide the most comprehensive picture to-date of how omega-3s may influence heart disease.”

The conclusion is that eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help to support a healthy diet. However, simply boosting the diet is not the sole factor for good heart health. It is worth noting that some past studied have concluded little benefit from omega-3s. On hearing the news, Stanford Medicine (@StanfordMed) tweeted: “Regularly eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may lower risk of fatal heart disease.” Also joining in in promoting the news was television presenter Julieanna Hever (@PlantDietitian).

The findings are published in the journal Jama Internal Medicine. The paper is titled “ω-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Biomarkers and Coronary Heart Disease – Pooling Project of 19 Cohort Studies.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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