(NaturalNews) Study after study over the past decade has come up with the same conclusion: omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil supplements decrease the risk of atherosclerosis, potentially deadly arrhythmias, heart attacks and sudden cardiac death. Omega-3 fats have also been found to reduce heart failure death by about nine percent in patients with grave prognoses. But what about people with serious heart disease who have already had heart attacks. Is there any hope omega-3s can help their cardiovascular (CV) health, too? A new study of tens of thousands of patients shows the answer is a resounding "yes".
The research, just published in the August 11, 2009, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, is so conclusive, in fact, that the scientists who conducted the study are suggesting that everyone should consume omega-3s daily for heart health.
"This isn't just hype; we now have tremendous and compelling evidence from very large studies, some dating back 20 and 30 years, that demonstrate the protective benefits of omega-3 fish oil in multiple aspects of preventive cardiology," Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans and lead author of the article, said in a statement to the media. "The strongest evidence of a cardioprotective effect of omega-3s appears in patients with established cardiovascular disease and following a heart attack with up to a 30 percent reduction in CV-related death."
The researchers point out that most of the evidence for the cardioprotective benefits involves DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), the long-chain fatty acids in the omega-3 family. Studies have shown a reduction in cardiovascular events is inversely related to the tissue levels of EPA and DHA. Apparently, EPA and DHA work synergistically, moving inside the membranes of cells. This is believed to help stabilize any plaque in arteries, improve the heart's electrical activity, normalize vascular tone, and reduce blood pressure, among other benefits.
Based on their research and the fact the human body doesn't produce its own essential fatty acids, Dr. Lavie and his research team are now recommending that healthy individuals should consume 500 mg daily of omega-3 fish oil containing EPA and DHA. They add that people already known to have heart disease or heart failure should take more -- about 800 to 1,000 mg every day.
"There are clear health and heart benefits associated with increasing one's intake of foods that are rich in omega-3s, including oily fish like salmon, sardines, trout, herring, and oysters," Dr. Lavie stated. "Patients should talk with their doctors about whether a fish oil supplement is needed to get the right amount and, in turn, benefit from the associated cardiovascular protection."
But what about the recent study that showed omega-3 fatty acids did nothing to help patients after heart attacks? Dr. Lavie explained that particular research only looked at low-risk patients already receiving extensive and rigorous post-heart attack therapies. "It was a one-year study that enrolled fewer than 4,000 patients and the majority were using aspirin, clopidogrel, statins, beta-blockers and ACE-inhibitors-the best of modern medicine," he said in the press statement. "It may be that their risk was so low to start, that a larger study with longer follow-up would be required to better assess the true efficacy of omega-3 in such relatively low-risk patients."