The omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish not only prevent cardiovascular disease, but may even help treat it, a new study suggests.
The study, published in the Aug. issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, involved four trials with almost 40,000 participants that show benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, in treatment after heart attack and, most recently, in heart failure patients.
The study cited epidemiological evidence which showed that populations such as Asians and Alaskan Eskimos, whose diets are rich in fish oil, have a low incidence of cardiovascular disease.
"A lot of people know that omega-3 fatty acids are a good thing, but have thought of them in the area of nutritional or health foods," said study author Carl J. Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans.
"They don't realize there is so much data, a lot of data from big studies, that they are not only preventive but also help in therapy for a number of conditions, such as a trial fibrillation, heart attack, atherosclerosis and heart failure."
The American Heart Association has endorsed omega-3 fatty acid intake, from fish or supplements, recommending specific amounts of omega-3 fatty acids each day for people in general, with greater intake recommended for people with heart disease.
But the association says that Omega-3 supplements should be taken only after consulting with a doctor, because too much can cause excessive bleeding in some people.
"For the general population, it should be 500 milligrams a day," Lavie said. "If you have heart disease, it should be 800 or 1,000 milligrams a day."
Not much effort is needed for most people to achieve the recommended intake, Lavie said. "500 milligrams a day is two fatty fish meals per week," he added.
(Xinhua News Agency August 6, 2009)