If you’re between 40 and 60 years of age, you’re a member of the large Canadian demographic group known as the “baby boomers.” One of your priorities is extending your health into the next phase of your life for as long as possible. With cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, becoming leading cause of death in Canada, how can you minimize your risk as you reach the ages most commonly afflicted by cardiovascular diseases?
Diet, physical activity, genetic history and lifestyle factors such as stress have a major impact on an individual’s risk for heart or circulatory conditions. Eating healthy is crucial and in our control. In addition to a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fibres, it is important to get enough “good fats” (HDL – high density lipids) and to reduce intake of “bad fats” (LDL – low density lipids).
The long-standing belief that those who consume sufficient amounts of fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (“good fats”) are less susceptible to heart problems is borne out by some 3000 studies conducted around the world, including:
• A 2001 study showed that fish oil supplementation resulted in a 20% decrease in risk of death, a 30% decrease in risk of cardiovascular death, and a 45% decrease in risk of sudden death.1
• In a double-blind study conducted in 1996, fish oil supplementation reduced the risk of a second heart attack.2
• Studies done in 2000 and 2003 show statistically significant reductions in both triglyceride and LDL (low density lipid) cholesterol levels with the use of fish oil.3,4
Fish oil supplementation sounds so promising for heart health, but is it safe? The American Heart Association recommends the use of fish oil (0.9g of EPA and DHA per day) for the prevention AND treatment of heart disease, even while using conventional medication. In other words, fish oil is effective and safe enough to be used with commonly prescribed heart medicines such as warafin and aspirin (note: if you are on blood thinners, you may want to let your doctor know so that your blood can be regularly monitored).5
Another concern related to fish consumption is potential contamination from heavy metals, dioxins and PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls) caused from air and sea pollution. It is important to make sure that the brand of fish oil that you choose has been purified and is tested to comply with government and industry standards. Adding a quality fish oil supplement to your diet makes sense for minimizing health risks and maximizing life’s rewards.
Health Benefits of DHA & EPA
Fish oil from deep cold waters is naturally rich in the important Omega-3 Fatty Acids, EPA and DHA, which have been studied for a lengthy list of health benefits:
• Prevention of heart disease and atherosclerosis.6
• Reduction of high blood triglycerides.6
• Prevention of heart attacks due to irregular heartbeat.2
• Reduction of high blood pressure.7
• Reduction in rheumatoid inflammation.8
• Improvement of skin diseases: dry skin and psoriasis.9, 10
• Improvement of mental diseases: attention deficit disorder (ADD), dementia, aggression.11,12
• Improvement of multiple sclerosis, diabetes and Crohn’s disease.13, 14, 15, 16
• Increased brain development in children and fetuses.17, 18, 19
The information on this page is for research and educational purposes and is not intended as a prescription or diagnosis for any ailment. For references, see below.
Please consult your health professional.
1. Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after myocardial infarction: results of the GISSI-Prevenzione trial. Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto miocardico. Lancet. 1999 Aug 7;354(9177):447-55. Erratum in: Lancet 2001 Feb 24;357(9256):642.
2. Christensen JH, Gustenhoff P, Korup E, Aaroe J, Toft E, Moller J, Rasmussen K, Dyerberg J, Schmidt EB. Effect of fish oil on heart rate variability in survivors of myocardial infarction: a double blind randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 1996 Mar 16;312(7032):677-8.
3. Stark KD, Park EJ, Maines VA, Holub BJ. Effect of a fish-oil concentrate on serum lipids in postmenopausal women receiving and not receiving hormone replacement therapy in a placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Aug;72(2):389-94.
4. Laidlaw M, Holub BJ. Effects of supplementation with fish oil-derived n-3 fatty acids and gamma-linolenic acid on circulating plasma lipids and fatty acid profiles in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jan;77(1):37-42.
5. Krauss RM, Eckel RH, Howard B, Appel LJ, Daniels SR, Deckelbaum RJ, Erdman JW Jr, Kris-Etherton P, Goldberg IJ, Kotchen TA, Lichtenstein AH, Mitch WE, Mullis R, Robinson K, Wylie-Rosett J, St Jeor S, Suttie J, Tribble DL, Bazzarre TL. AHA Dietary Guidelines: revision 2000: A statement for healthcare professionals from the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2000 Oct 31;102(18):2284-99.
6. Harris, W.S. n-3 Fatty acids and serum lipoproteins: human studies American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 65 (suppl): pp 16455-545 (1997)
7. Appel L. J., et al. Does Supplementation of Diet with ‘Fish Oil’ Reduce Blood Pressure” A Meta-analysis of Controlled Clinical Trials. Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 19, pp 242-253 (1990)
8. Kremer JM. N-3 fatty acid supplements in rheumatoid arthritis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 200 Jan; 71(1 Suppl): 349S-351S
9. Grimminger F, Mayser P, Papavassilis C, Thomas M, Schlotzer E, Heuer KU, Fuhrer D, Hinsch KD, Walmrath D, Schill WB, et al . A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of n-3 fatty acid based lipid infusion in acute extended guttate psoriasis. Rapid improvement of clinical manifestations and changes in nuetrophil leukotriene profile. Clinical Investigation, 1993 Aug 71(8): 634-643
10. Gupta AK, Ellis CN, Tellner DC, Anderson TF, Voorhees JJ. Double-blind, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the efficacy of fish oil and low-does UVS in the treatment of psoriasis, British Journal of Dermatology, 1989 June; 120(6):801-7
11. Hibbein J. Fish consumption and major depression. Lancet, Vol. 351 pp 1213(1998)
12. Stoll A.L., et al. Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder. A Preliminary Double-blind, Placebo Controlled Trial. Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol. 56, pp407-412, (1999).
13. Adler AI, Boyko EJ, Schraer CD, Murphy NJ. Lower prevalence of impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes associated with daily seal oil or salmon consumption among Alaska Natives. Diabetes Care, 1994; 17: 1498-1501
14. Nobukata H, Ishikawa T, Obata M, Shibutani Y. Long-term administration of highyly purified eicosapentaenoic acid ethyl ester prevents diabetes and abnormalities of blood coagulation in male WBN/Kob rats. Metabolism, 2000 Jul;(7): 912-919.
15. Bates Dl, et al. A double-blind controlled trial of long chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Journal of Neurology and Psychiatry, Vol. 52 (1), pp 18-22 (1989)
16. Belluzzi, A., et al. Effect of an enteric-coated fish-oil preparation on relapses in Crohn’s disease. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 334, pp 1557-1560, (1996)
17. McClennan P., et al. The cardiovascular protective role of docosahexaenoic acid. European Journal of Pharmacology, Vol. 300, ppp 83-89, (1995)
18. Anderson G.L., Docoshexaenoic acid is the preferred dietary n-3 fatty acid for the development of the brain and retina. Pediatric Research, Vol. 27 (1), pp 89-97, (1990)
19. Walton A.J., et al. Dietary fish oil and the severity of symptoms in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, Vo. 50 (7), pp 467-466, (1991)