Fish plays no role in the prevention of heart failure, but it can be partly beneficial for people with diabetes, according to a large prospective population study.
The study, which was started in 1990 and involved all men and women over the age of 55 living in a suburb of Rotterdam, found no difference in the risk of developing heart failure between those who did eat fish and those who didn't.
"Scientists and health authorities are increasingly persuaded that the intake of fish - even in small amounts - will protect against the risk of fatal myocardial infarction," said study investigator Dr Marianne Geleinjse from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
"However, there is no strong evidence that eating fish will protect against heart failure. One study has suggested that this might be so, but we could not confirm it in our cohort study of older Dutch people," added Geleinjse.
While heart failure treatments are often limited to palliative care, much rests on prevention.
The current study was aimed to investigate whether intake of the long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) found in fish conferred protection against heart failure as they seem to do against coronary heart disease.
The analysis comprised 5299 subjects (41 percent men, mean age 67.5 years) who were free from heart failure and for whom dietary data were available.
During 11.4 years of follow-up, 669 subjects developed heart failure.
Their habitual diet had been assessed at baseline (in a self-reported checklist and by expert interview), with subjects specifically asked to indicate the frequency, amount, and kind of fish they had eaten, either as a hot meal, on a sandwich, or between meals.
Results showed that the dietary intake of fish was not significantly related to heart failure incidence.
However, in diabetic subjects the researchers saw a slight improvement.
The study is published in the October issue of the European Journal of Heart Failure.