Researchers from McMaster University and other institutions have discovered that regular consumption of oily fish may help prevent heart disease in people at high risk, such as those with vascular disease.
The study, led by Andrew Mente et al., and published in JAMA Internal Medicine, focuses on the importance of omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients crucial for maintaining a healthy body, obtained from food or supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are a key component of every cell wall and a vital energy source, help ensure the proper functioning of the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and immune system.
Sources of Omega-3s and Previous Research
Omega-3 fatty acids are abundantly found in fish and seafood, especially cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines.
They are also present in nuts and seeds (like flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts), and plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil).
Previous studies have reported inconsistent connections between eating fish, a primary source of omega-3 fatty acids, and the risks of heart disease and death.
The variations in these associations among people with and without vascular disease were unclear.
In the current research, the scientists analyzed data from 147,645 individuals (139,827 without heart disease and 7,818 with heart disease) from 21 countries and 43,413 patients with vascular disease from 40 countries.
Vascular disease affects the blood vessels responsible for carrying oxygen and nutrients throughout the body and removing waste from tissues.
Common vascular problems occur when plaque (made of fat and cholesterol) restricts or blocks blood flow inside the arteries or veins.
Impact of Fish Consumption
The team found that during nine years of follow-up, an intake of 350g/week or more of fish was not associated with a risk of major heart disease or death, compared with little or no fish intake (≤50g/month).
However, among patients with vascular disease, the risks of heart disease and death were lowest with intakes of at least 175g/week (or about 2 servings/week), compared with 50g/month or lower.
There was no further decrease in heart disease risk with consumption of 350g/week or more. Fish with higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids were strongly associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Conclusion and Future Research
These findings suggest that a minimum fish intake of 175g (about 2 servings) per week is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death in individuals with vascular disease.
The link between fish intake and lower risks of heart disease and death was primarily found among patients with vascular disease, not in the general population.
Therefore, the consumption of fish (especially oily fish) should be investigated further in clinical studies involving these patients.
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