Fish Improves Cardiovascular Health

Oily fish or omega3 supplements offer heart benefits

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Looking to improve your heart health whether you are healthy or already suffer from cardiovascular disease? It may be as simple as regular fish consumption, particularly oily varieties such as salmon.

Omega-3 supplements also appear to play a role in heart health for those who do not like fish, though whole fish may offer the optimal benefit.

"Incorporate fish into meals several times a week."

Philip Calder, a metabolic biochemist and nutritionist from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, said that omega-3 fatty acids are important to human health, regardless of whether for cardiovascular, brain or immune health.

He said that clinicians can play a key role by educating patients about the beneficial effects of including fish in their diets.

During the presentation organized by the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, a registered branch of the European Society of Cardiology, researchers focused on the cardiovascular benefits of the long chain highly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid found in the flesh of oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, trout and sardines.

Previous studies have found mixed results in determining whether eating fish or taking omega-3 supplements can offer cardiovascular benefits.

Research dating back to the 1970s has reported beneficial heart benefits from omega-3 fatty acids. More recent studies have not shown a benefit, though those studies may have had issues with too few participants, short follow up time and supplement dosage.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease inflammation within the walls of blood vessels, potentially aiding with plaque build up in the arteries. They appear to promote electrical stability in the cell and prevent heart arrhythmias. Omega-3 fatty acids also are known potent triglyceride lowering agents.

The latest European Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice, launched at the same EuroPRevent 2012 meeting, suggest eating fish at least twice a week, with at least one of those meals consisting of oily fish.

Calder suggests that omega-3 supplements be of pharmaceutical grade since over the counter supplements do not contain the same amount of fatty acids.

“It’s important that health professionals give clear guidance around the need for patients to take one gram of omega-3 a day to achieve any beneficial effects. With over the counter brands containing different concentrations there’s a danger people may not be receiving sufficient intakes,” said Calder.

However, eating oily fish has been shown to be more beneficial than supplements because fish contains other nutrients such as vitamin D, selenium and iodine that may also be beneficial against cardiovascular disease.

The findings were presented March 3 at the EuroPRevent 2012 meeting in Dublin, Ireland.

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Review Date: 
May 3, 2012
Last Updated:
May 4, 2012