Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseed and certain other foods are associated with a slight reduction in the likelihood of fatal heart disease. This question has been controversial, with some studies suggesting that omega-3 fats protect the heart and others showing little or no benefit from consuming fish oil or other sources of omega-3 compounds.
A Review of Research on Omega-3 Fats:
This analysis, by the Fatty acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (with the acronym FORCE), reviewed data from 19 studies with 45,637 participants from 16 countries. All of these studies had collected blood or tissue samples that showed levels of omega-3 fats.
The scientists found in their analysis that plant-based and marine omega-3 fats were both linked to a slightly lower risk of a fatal heart attack. The reduction was about 10 percent. There was no association between omega-3 levels and nonfatal heart attacks.
The senior author, Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy of Tufts University, noted that these results “lend support to the importance of fish and omega-3 consumption as part of a healthy diet.”
Omega-3 Fats in the Mediterranean Diet:
Both marine sources (fish and shellfish) and plant sources (flax, pecans, walnuts and many strong-flavored greens) of these fatty acids are components of the Mediterranean diet, so that might help explain how that eating pattern protects the heart.
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