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People with Cardiovascular Disease Do Better Eating Fish

Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer throughout the world. People at high risk are often prescribed a number of medications to control cholesterol, lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots. Research supports prescription-strength fish oil to rehabilitate a weakened heart. A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests those who have had heart attacks or strokes might also benefit from eating fish twice a week.

Fish Against Cardiovascular Disease:

The investigators analyzed data from four large epidemiological studies that included almost 200,000 individuals from 58 countries (JAMA Internal Medicine, online, March 8, 2021). The studies included PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology), the largest, and three others: ONTARGET, TRANSCEND, and ORIGIN. The median duration of follow-up was 7.5 years. 

What Were the Findings on Fish?

People who had significant cardiovascular disease when the studies started got the most benefit. If they ate two weekly servings of oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring or mackerel, they were less likely to suffer heart attacks or strokes or to die during the study.

People who had healthy cardiovascular systems did not have lower rates of heart attacks or strokes if they ate fish. However, fish consumption might still be beneficial. Not all the studies had the exact same results. Consequently, the scientists recommend randomized controlled trials of fish consumption to find out if it prevents cardiac death.

An accompanying editorial notes that healthy people had few heart attacks. As a result, a modest benefit from eating fish would be difficult to detect in this group.

It concludes, however,

“modest fish consumption appears to have some cardiac benefits.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Mohan D et al, "Associations of fish consumption with risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality among individuals with or without vascular disease from 58 countries." JAMA Internal Medicine, online, March 8, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.0036
  • Mozaffarian D, "Fish, cardiovascular disease, and mortality—What is the global evidence?" JAMA Internal Medicine, online, March 8, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.0045
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