Fish Oil omega-3 fatty acids slash men’s heart failure risk by 1/3rd

April 28, 2009

One portion of fatty fish per week may reduce a man’s risk of heart failure, according to new research from the US and Sweden. The benefits are linked to the omega-3 content of the fish, report researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. The highest intake of marine omega-3 fatty acids linked to a reduction in the risk of heart failure of 33%. “Previous research has demonstrated that fatty fish and omega-3 fatty acids help to combat risk factors for a range of heart-related conditions, such as lowering triglycerides [fats in the blood] reducing blood pressure, heart rate and heart rate variability,”said lead author Emily Levitan, PhD.
“Collectively, this may explain the association with the reduced risk of heart failure found in our study,” she added.

Omega-3 fatty acids, most notably DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), 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.
The new study is said to be one of the largest studies to investigate the association between fatty fish and omega-3 intake, and heart failure.

Almost 40,000 Swedish men between the ages of 45 and 79 were followed between 1998 and 2004. Heart failure, which arises when the heart can no longer pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, is the leading cause of hospitalisation among the over 65s, and is characterized by such symptoms as fatigue and weakness, difficulty walking, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and persistent cough or wheezing.

According to Levitan and her co-workers, consuming one portion of fatty fish per week could offer benefits for men by reducing the risk of developing heart failure by 12%, compared with men who ate no fatty fish. The researchers are quick to note, however, that this association was not statistically significant. The true value came when men consumed Omega-3 fish oil fatty acids daily

The researchers analysed data from 39,367 middle-aged and older Swedish men with no previous history of heart disease or diabetes. In addition to the trend for a reduced risk of heart failure for men who ate one portion of fish per week, men who consumed approximately 0.36 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids were 33% less likely to develop heart failure than the men who consumed little or no marine omega-3 fatty acids, added Levitan and her co-workers. “Current guidelines from the American Heart Association recommend eating fatty fish twice a week. It will be important, going forward, to replicate these findings in other populations, particularly those including women, as our study looked at men only.” The study was funded by the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. The study is published online ahead of print in the April 21st, 2009 issue of the European Heart Journal.