Omega-3 Fatty Acids Protect Against Sudden Death From Heart Attack
DC, 9 April 2002
research article published in the April 11 issue of the New England
Journal of Medicine (NEJM) indicates that men with high blood
levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids were strongly protected
against sudden death from heart attack. Omega-3 fatty acids are
also known as n-3 fatty acids, and are highly unsaturated fats that
occur naturally in fish and other marine products.
to the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), one of the dietary
supplement industry's leading trade associations, this is one more
positive study highlighting the benefits of this important nutrient.
"We already know that omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of sudden
death after a heart attack," said John Cordaro, president and chief
executive officer, CRN. "Now we have learned that omega-3 fatty
acids significantly reduce the risk of sudden death in people with
no prior cardiovascular disease. Good nutrition is an essential
lifestyle component, but unfortunately we don't always select our
foods properly to provide the nutrients we need. This study underscores
the importance of dietary supplements with omega-3 fatty acids to
help reduce the risk of sudden death from cardiac arrest."
study, conducted by Albert et al., was based on data from the Physicians'
Health Study. The degree of protection was 72% in men in the third
quartile of omega-3 blood levels and 81% in men in the top quartile,
as compared to the risk among physicians in the bottom quartile.
The study subjects were 94 physicians "in whom sudden death occurred
as the first manifestation of cardiovascular disease" and 184 matched
than half of sudden cardiac deaths occur in people with no history
of the disease
authors conclude that, "taken together with previous data from observational
studies and randomized trials, these prospective data suggest that
the long-chain n-3 fatty acids found in fish may reduce the risk
of sudden death from cardiac causes, even among men without a history
of cardiovascular disease. Because more than 50 percent of all sudden
deaths from cardiac causes occur in people with no history of cardiac
disease, preventive efforts must address this segment of the population
to have a substantial effect on the overall incidence of sudden
death from cardiac causes. If the observed association is causal,
increasing the intake of n-3 fatty acids by eating more fish or
by taking supplements is an intervention that could be applied to
this segment of the population at low cost and little risk."
an accompanying "perspective," Irwin H. Rosenberg, MD, calls the
evolution of the research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids
"a model for any scientific effort to identify a functional food."
He points out that, in addition to protecting against sudden death
from cardiac arrhythmias, long chain fatty acids such as EPA and
DHA confer other benefits. These include lowering triglyceride levels,
affecting thrombosis, supporting the immune system, enhancing development
of the central nervous system in infants, and helping modulate blood
for Responsible Nutrition, via PR Newswire.