Fish intake associated with lower CHD risk in women.





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Professional Data: Omega-3 Fatty Acids


Scientists have learned that people who consume a diet very high in omega-3 fatty acids have surprisingly low rates of heart attacks. Since that time thousands of scientific studies have evaluated the multiple ways that omega-3 fatty acids promotes not only cardiovascular health, but also the healthy functioning of many other biological activities. Many Americans don't get enough of it in their diets. One reason is that omega-3 oils are very susceptible to spoilage and so many food manufacturers remove it to keep products fresh. Another reason is that omega-3 oils mostly come from cold-water fish and wild game— something most Americans don't eat in great quantities.

Omega-3 refers to a group or "family" of unsaturated fatty acids. The first fatty acid in this group is named alpha linolenic acid or just linolenic acid, and sometimes it is just called omega-3. Linolenic acid cannot be made in the body and therefore, it is classified as an essential fatty acid and must be obtained from either the diet or in supplement form. The other two fatty acids in the omega-3 family are named eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The body can manufacture EPA and DHA by conversions from linolenic acid.

A recent study investigated the relationship between fish and omega-3 intake and the risk of coronary heart disease in women. Information was taken from the Nurses' Health Study, which included over 80,000 women. Throughout the 16-year follow up of this study, 1513 cases of CHD were reported among these women. In comparison, women who consumed fish less than once a month had a higher risk of CHD than those who had a higher intake. These results were adjusted for age, smoking, and other health concerns. After these adjustments, the outcome illustrated that the more fish the women ate, the lower their risk for developing CHD. Similar results were seen in women who had higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, this correlation was noted to be significant in decreasing the risk of death due to CHD. The authors concluded that, "among women, higher consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a lower risk of CHD, particularly CHD deaths."1


1. Hu FB. Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women. JAMA. Apr 2002;287:1815-1821.