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08-08-2011 | Cardiology | Article

Fish consumption may reduce heart failure risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: Results of a US study support existing recommendations that adults consume at least two servings of fish, especially oily fish, per week.

Dariush Mozaffarian (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts) and colleagues found that higher levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and in particular eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), were associated with lower risk for coronary heart failure (CHF) in older adults.

Writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the team says: "The large and growing health burdens and costs of CHF in older adults, both personal and public, make identifying novel preventive measures especially timely and important."

Using data from 2735 participants (aged ≥65 years) of the Cardiovascular Health Study, the researchers evaluated the associations of plasma phospholipid concentrations of EPA, docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and total omega-3 fatty acids with incident CHF.

Compared with self-reported estimates of fish consumption, the authors say that these biomarkers provide a more objective measure of dietary omega-3 consumption, allow evaluation of specific fatty acids, and account for potential nondietary processes, such as endogenous elongation of EPA to DPA, which might influence risk for CHF.

They report that, during 26,490 person-years of follow-up, 555 cases of incident CHF occurred.

Multivariate analysis revealed that higher circulating concentrations of EPA, DPA, and total omega-3 fatty acids were significantly associated with a lower incidence of CHF. No significant association was observed for DHA, however.

Associations were strongest for EPA; the risk for CHF was 48% lower for individuals in the highest quartile (1.04% total fatty acids) compared with the lowest (0.31% total fatty acids). Similarly, individuals in the highest quartiles of DPA and total fatty acids had a respective 24% and 30% lower risk for CHF than those in the lowest quartiles.

When the researchers performed additional analyses, censored at the midpoint of follow-up (7 years) to minimize effects of exposure misclassification over time, they found that higher EPA, DPA, and total omega-3 fatty acid concentrations were each significantly associated with lower incidence of CHF.

"These findings, when combined with our results and those of previous experimental studies, suggest that EPA and its metabolite DPA may be especially relevant for protection against non-arrhythmia-related cardiovascular events," say the researchers.

"Our findings also support the need for additional well-designed and sufficiently powered experimental and interventional studies to clarify the discrete and potentially complementary health effects and related biological pathways of EPA, DPA, and DHA that may prevent CHF," they conclude.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Nikki Withers

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