Recently, an international consortium called Fatty acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCE) looked at findings from a number of large studies which included data on levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the tissue or blood and examined the association with heart disease over time. They found that higher consumption of plant and seafood-based omega-3s was moderately linked to a lower risk of dying from a heart attack. These results were published on June 27, in Jama Internal Medicine.

This research is important because each year, around 735,000 people in the US have a heart attack. Having a healthy diet has always been considered a key factor in reducing the risk of heart attack and many studies have suggested that including omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in this diet, is particularly beneficial.

The body needs omega-3 essential fatty acids for certain functions like blood clotting, digestion, muscle activity, and cell division and growth. But the only way to get omega-3’s is through the foods we eat.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, with the highest levels found in salmon, trout, anchovies, sardines, and herring. For those following a plant-based diet (which researchers pointed out were not associated with a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but were linked with a roughly 10 percent lower risk of fatal heart attacks), omega-2s can be found in certain nuts and oils such as walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil.

From the Bioscience Technology article:

“Combined, the 19 studies centrally pooled in a meta-analysis involved 45,637 participants.  Over time, 7,973 of these people experienced a first heart attack, with 2,781 resulting in death. Patients with higher blood levels of both seafood and plant-based omega-3s were 10 percent less likely to have a fatal heart attack. For each standard deviation in levels of omega-3s the risk dropped, with those at the highest end of the spectrum seeing a decreased risk of 25 percent compared to those with the lowest levels. Interestingly, researchers did not link levels of fatty acid biomarkers to the likelihood of experiencing a nonfatal heart attack.  The authors say this might mean there is a more specific mechanism for why omega-3 helps lower risk of death.

From the Medical News Today article:

“These findings remained after accounting for a number of possible confounding factors, such as participants’ age, sex, race/ethnicity, the presence of diabetes, and use of aspirin or cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Overall, the authors say their results indicate that consuming foods rich in omega-3 may lower the risk of non-fatal heart attack.”


Study leader Liana Del Gobbo, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine said, “These new results, including many studies which previously had not reported their findings, provide the most comprehensive picture to date of how omega-3s may influence heart disease.”


Sources: Bio Science Technology, Medical News Today and Medicine Net