Blood levels of seafood and plant-based omega-3 fatty acids are tied to a lower risk of dying from heart attacks, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal.
Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and trout contain two omega-3 fatty acids, called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A third type of omega-3 fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid (ALA), is found in plant-based foods such as flaxseed, flax oil, walnuts, and canola oil.
Researchers from around the world joined together to form the Fatty acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCE). By pooling findings from many large studies that had measured blood or cell levels of omega-3 fatty acids, they evaluated the connection with heart attacks over time.
A total of 19 studies were from 16 countries we analyzed including 45,637 participants. Of these, 7,973 people developed a first heart event over time, including 2,781 deaths and 7,157 nonfatal heart attacks.
Higher levels of omega-3’s protected against fatal heart attack, not non fatal heart attack
Overall, both plant-based and fish-based omega-3s were associated with about a 10 percent lower risk of fatal heart attacks. Omega-3 levels were not, though, related to the risk of nonfatal heart attacks, suggesting a more specific mechanism for benefits of omega-3s related to death.
These new results provide the most comprehensive picture to-date of how omega-3s may influence heart disease, said one of the researchers. Across the many studies, findings were consistent by age, sex, race, presence or absence of diabetes, and use of aspirin or cholesterol-lowering drugs.
These results lend support to the importance of fish and omega-3 consumption as part of a heart-healthy diet.
Best food sources of omega-3 fats
Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, anchovies, sardines, and herring contain the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, although all fish contain some. Oily fish also deliver protein, vitamin D, selenium, and other minerals and elements that may play a role in heart health.
To increase your intake of ALA, include plant foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseed oil, soybeans and tofu in your diet.
Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, June 2016.
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