Researchers say eating oily fish like salmon, tuna or bluefish twice a week can prevent sudden cardiac death from irregular heart rhythms. It has long been known that eating fish is associated with reduced risk of heart disease, but only recently have researchers had scientific evidence to explain the effect. Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle present a detailed explanation of how omega-3 fish oils benefit the heart.
Animal experiments demonstrate that fatty acids from omega-3 oils are stored in the cell membranes of heart cells and can prevent sudden cardiac death or fatal irregular heart rhythms. Specifically, the oils block excessive sodium and calcium currents in the heart, which can cause electrical discharges that result in erratic changes in heart rhythm.
The first study that showed the benefits of omega-3 oils came from a 1989 study of 2,033 men with heart disease who were given dietary advice on fat, fiber or fish. After two years, the men who ate fish at least twice a week had a 29-percent reduction in death. There was no benefit in either the fiber or fat group.
This study was followed by a series of studies and controlled clinical trials that all showed the same thing: A diet rich in fatty fish reduces fatal heart attacks.
The American Heart Association states that a dietary approach to increasing omega-fatty acid intake is preferable. However, patients with coronary artery disease should consult with their physician regarding fish oil supplements.