March 16, 2008
Fish Reduce Heart Attack Risks
Author James O’Keefe, M.D., a cardiologist from the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo., cites the results of several large trials that demonstrated the positive benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids, either from oily fish or fish oil capsules.
“The most compelling evidence for the cardiovascular benefit provided by omega-3 fatty acids comes from three large controlled trials of 32,000 participants randomized to receive omega-3 fatty acid supplements containing DHA and EPA or to act as controls,” explains Dr. O’Keefe. “These trials showed reductions in cardiovascular events of 19 percent to 45 percent. Overall, these findings suggest that intake of omega-3 fatty acids, whether from dietary sources or fish oil supplements, should be increased, especially in those with or at risk for coronary artery disease.”
How much fish oil should people attempt to incorporate into their diets" According to Dr. O’Keefe, people with known coronary artery disease should consume about 1 gram per day, while people without disease should consume at least 500 milligrams (mg) per day.
“Patients with high triglyceride levels can benefit from treatment with 3 to 4 grams daily of DHA and EPA,” says Dr. O’Keefe. “Research shows that this dosage lowers triglyceride levels by 20 to 50 percent.”
About two meals of oily fish can provide 400 to 500 mg of DHA and EPA, so patients who need to consume higher levels of these fatty-acids may choose to use fish oil supplements to reach these targets.
How much EPA and DHA you are going to get from eating fish depends heavily on which fish you eat. They differ on the total amount of fat per serving and also in terms of what percentage of the fat is DHA or EPA.
See this chart of EPA and DHA per 3 oz serving of various types of fish. Their amounts of EPA and DHA vary by more than 2 orders of magnitude. If you choose to eat 3 ounces per day of the higher EPA and DHA fish you can easily get 1 gram of EPA and DHA per day. Though doing that day after day might get tedious and time consuming. The pills have their appeal.
Your link to the chart is busted.
This might help, I've been looking it over while doing meal planning for my newly pregnant wife:
Mercury content of fish species
Omega 3 content of fish species
I haven't fully cross correlated them yet, but one thing just jumps out at you: You simply can't beat salmon when it comes to getting as much Omega 3 as possible from fish, with as little mercury as possible. (Though buying cod liver oil is still cheaper.) The book on pregnancy we've been reading recommends a variety of fish, but most fish species are either poor sources of Omega 3s, or relatively high in mercury.
Good for us, bad for the planet.
(A few species might be genuinely healthy and sustainable ... "authentic" wild salmon perhaps?)
Salmon are normally low in mercury, but can be high in dioxins, PCBs, and other toxins, especially if farmed.
Why not just take the pills? This sounds gross, but I used to have a problem with bleeding gums. Not because of bad dental care, I brushed and flossed as much as I was supposed to. But everytime I brushed or flossed, my gums bled. Mom said it was hereditary since she has the same problem. I started taking fish oil because of the hype and I noticed soon afterwards that my gums stopped bleeding completely. Hell, you could punch me square in the mouth and they wouldn't bleed! Well no, but still. The rest of my testimony stands.
I'm fine with the pills, my wife is remarkably resistant to taking any kind of pill if it hasn't been prescribed by a doctor. (Comes from growing up in the Philippines, I guess, where fraudulent pharmaceuticals are so common you never know what's really in that pill you just bought.) It's the fish, or nothing, in our house.
But I definitely agree: Fish oil pills, carefully purified, with standardized Omega 3 content, are the sensible solution, and they're cheaper than salmon, too. Or the bulk oil, which can easily be incorporated into baked goods, I find.
I hear they've genetically engineered mice to produce omega 3 fatty acids. I imagine that livestock can't be far behind. Though you'd think engineering intestinal flora to manufacture the stuff would be the obvious way to go...
Canned salmon is pretty cheap (abt. $2/can), and it's all wild.
My favorite recipie with canned salmon (actually the only thing I make) is salmon cakes - take a can of salmon, pull out the big bones and the skin (leave the fat). Throw in a bowl. Don't worry about tiny bones - you won't even taste them. Add 2 eggs, 1/3 cup of panko (or breadcrumbs), 1/4 cup of chopped green onion, a bit of dill, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Form into 4 cakes. Throw on the griddle, 3.5-4 minutes per side. This makes for a very healthy main course for the family, all for less than $3.