Huge Study Says Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help Prevent Fatal Heart Disease

The finding comes from the Fatty Acids & Outcomes Research Consortium.

New research says omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent fatal heart attacks—and this is not your average one-off study.

The finding was based on 19 studies by researchers from 16 countries, who came together to form the Fatty Acids & Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCE). The project is run out of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

The study produced by FORCE, published Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine, is uniquely thorough. Each of the 19 studies analyzed, at the individual level, the connection between heart disease and the amount of omega-3s measured in the blood or tissue. Those results were then pooled, allowing the researchers to examine clinically gathered data from more than 45,000 subjects.

They found that consuming omega-3s from either plants (such as flax, walnuts, and chia seeds) or fish (such as salmon, trout, anchovies, herring, and sardines) reduced the risk of fatal heart disease by roughly 10 percent. People who ate the most omega-3s had an approximately 25 percent lower risk of dying of heart disease than those who ate the fewest. Those effects seemed to hold true regardless of age, sex, race, and several other factors.

“For the leading cause of death in the world, lowering the risk by about 25 percent would be quite meaningful. At a time when some but not other trials of fish oil supplementation have shown benefits, there is uncertainty about cardiovascular effects of omega-3s,” Friedman School Dean Dariush Mozaffarian, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Our results lend support to the importance of fish and omega-3 consumption as part of a healthy diet.”