Increased intakes of omega-3s and higher blood levels of the fatty acids are associated with a 15% decrease in the risk of heart failure, says a new meta-analysis.
Seven prospective studies, which provided data on 176,441 subjects and 5,480 incident cases of heart failure, indicated that people with the highest category of EPA and DHA levels had a 14% lower risk of heart failure, compared to people with the lowest levels.
Writing in Clinical Nutrition, scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University in Boston also report that the highest intakes of fish were associated with a 15% reduction in heart failure risk.
The conclusions of the meta-analysis echo comments by Dariush Mozaffarian, DrPH, from Harvard University. Speaking at a recent Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED) Exchange in Boston, Dr. Mozaffarian told attendees: "The main benefits for omega-3s are for preventing cardiac death."
"Fish and omega-3 should be the first line of defense against heart disease death."
National and international recommendations have consistently focused on daily omega-3 consumptions of at least 250 mg of long-chain omega-3s, but median intakes of these is about 50 mg/day, added Dr. Mozaffarian.
For the new meta-analysis, the Boston-based scientists identified seven prospective studies for inclusion in their analysis.
They found that for every 15 gm per day increase in fish consumption, the risk of heart failure was reduced by five percent. In addition, for every 125 mg per day increase in EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, the associated risk of heart failure was decreased by three percent.
Commenting on the potential mechanism, the researchers note that EPA and DHA and fish have been linked to lower levels of triglycerides and improved blood lipid levels, which could favorably influence the heart failure risk. In addition, EPA and DHA have been reported to improved ventricular function, heart rate and inflammation, they said.
"If confirmed in a large double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial, EPA/DHA could be added to the list of lifestyle factors and pharmacological agents that can be used for the primary prevention of heart failure," they concluded.
Clinical Nutrition; Published online ahead of print.