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High Omega-3 Fatty Acid, Fish Intake Reduces CHD, Sudden Death

May 10, 2002

Omega-3 fatty acid intake is shown to be associated with reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in women, and of sudden death in men, in two new reports released last week. In the first study, in the April 10th issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Frank B. Hu, from the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues collected dietary data on 84,688 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study. These women were 34 to 59 years of age, and free from CHD at baseline in 1980.

Over 16 years of follow-up, there were 484 were deaths from CHD and 1029 nonfatal MIs, the researchers found.. Multivariate analysis showed that women who ate fish once per week had a relative risk for CHD of 0.71, for those eating fish two to four times per week the relative risk was 0.69, and for women who ate fish five or more time per week it was 0.66 (p for trend = 0.001), Dr. Hu’s team reports.

According to the authors, women who had a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acid also had a lower risk of CHD.

Dr. Hu and colleagues conclude that “this prospective study provides strong evidence for an inverse association between fish and omega-3 fatty acid consumption and risk of CHD in women, particularly CHD death.”

The second study, an early release from the April 11th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, is a nested case-control analysis of men who participated in the Physicians’ Health Study.

Dr. Christine M. Albert, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and colleagues analyzed previously collected blood from 94 men for whom sudden death was the first sign of cardiovascular disease. They compared these samples with 184 matched controls.

According to the report, the adjusted relative risk for sudden death was 0.28 among men who had concentrations of long-chain n-3 fatty acid in the third quartile and 0.19 for men in the fourth quartile, compared with men in the lowest quartile.

Dr. Albert and colleagues conclude that “if the observed association is causal, increasing the intake of n-3 fatty acids by eating more fish or by taking supplements is an intervention that could be applied to this segment of the population at low cost and little risk.”

The results from these studies mirror a recent report by Italian researchers, which found that supplemental n-3 polyunsaturated acids reduced mortality after MI.

JAMA 2002;287:1815-1821. N Engl J Med 2002;346:1102-1103,1113-1118.