Daily supplements of a fatty acid found in fish oil halves the risk of sudden death in heart attack survivors. Previous research has found that eating oily fish such as tuna and salmon can reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death caused by a particular type of irregular heartbeat. This study suggests fish-oil supplements, rather than dietary fish oil, could be a therapy without side effects for heart patients.
The study found that 1 gram daily of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), found in fish oil and known also as omega-3 fatty acids, significantly reduced the risk of death overall and sudden death in people who had heart attacks. The benefits were not due to changes in cholesterol levels or by reducing potentially fatal blood clotting.
The new analysis reveals that the lower mortality rate for the n-3 PUFA patients, compared with patients who got a placebo, resulted largely from a 55% reduction in sudden cardiac deaths at 4 months follow-up. The analysis also shows that the lifesaving benefit of n-3 PUFA is likely due to reducing episodes of potentially fatal irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmias.
Instead, the association recommends consuming two servings of fish twice a week. Fish are a good source of protein without the high saturated fat found in fatty meat products.