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A Little Fish Can Go a Long Way for Your Heart

Consuming more omega-3s by eating as little as one portion of fatty fish per week may provide heart health benefits, but moderate to high consumption is still best.

This guideline is based on the results of the largest study ever to investigate the association between fatty fish and omega-3 intake and heart failure.

Fatty fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon are high in two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3s have been linked to a large number of health benefits beyond heart health ranging from cognitive health to reduced risk of depression.

This recent study was conducted by US and Swedish researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.  The results were published in the April 2009 issue of the European Heart Journal.

The researchers followed almost 40,000 middle-aged and older Swedish men between 1998 and 2004. The men had no previous history of heart disease or diabetes.  During the study 597 men developed heart failure, and 34 men died.

Diet was measured using food-frequency questionnaires.

The researchers found that men who ate one portion of fatty fish weekly had a 12% decreased risk of developing heart disease compared to men who ate no fish.

Moreover, men who consumed moderate amounts of fatty fish (0.36 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids, roughly 2 servings per week) were 33% less likely to develop heart failure.

The researchers note that these results support the current recommendation by The American Heart Association to eat fatty fish at least two times a week.

They also note that further studies are necessary in order to replicate these findings, particularly studies involving women.

Currently, most Americans don't get enough fish or omega-3s in their diet and these results show once again that as little as one portion of fish weekly may provide significant health benefits.

If eating more fish is not an option for you, try taking a high quality fish oil supplement high in EPA and DHA and certified for purity.

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