Omega-3 fatty acids are indisputably beneficial to heart health. They help reduce inflammation in the blood vessels and throughout the body and lower triglycerides, leading to a decreased chance of heart attack and stroke. Since these acids aren’t produced by the body, but are necessary for normal functioning, we need to get them through supplements or through our diet, specifically foods like salmon and other fatty fish. But while many people choose to take fish oil pills, recent studies have shown that the heart health benefits of eating fish regularly are much greater than the benefits of just taking supplements.
In a recent review of 20 studies with over 68,000 participants, researchers found that the people who were assigned to take fish oil supplements only had a marginally lower rate of heart-related death or heart attack than those who took placebos. Their 9 percent lower heart-related death rate and 11 percent lower heart attack rate were too small to be attributed to the fish oil pills.
In contrast, another study of 2,700 adults over age 64 who didn’t take fish oil supplements looked at how obtaining omega-3’s only through eating fish would affect the participants’ heart health. After regularly measuring the omega-3 levels in their blood over the 16 year study, researchers found that the people who reported eating fatty fishes most often had higher blood levels of omega-3’s, resulting in a 27 percent lower overall mortality risk and a 35 percent lower risk of death from heart disease.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that everyone eat at least two servings of fatty fish per week to protect and promote heart health. As for fish oil supplements, the AHA recommends consulting your doctor before taking them or stopping.
Learn more about coronary heart disease, what to expect at a doctor’s appointment, questions to ask, and more with our Patient Guide.
Sources: theatlantic.com, time.com, and webmd.com