By Jennifer J Brown, PhD
Eating fish in moderation can lower your atrial fibrillation risk, a common heart condition that affects more than 3 million people in the United States and can lead to stroke and heart failure.
People who ate two servings of fish weekly had a 13 percent lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation (afib), according to an observational study presented today at the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) international conference in Athens, Greece.
What seems to offer protection against afib is getting about 0.6 grams of a fish oil known as marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fatty fish in the diet, reported investigator Thomas Rix, MD and others from Aalgorg University Hospital in Denmark. Fatty or “oily” fish that provide this nutrient include salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel as well as small fish like sardines and anchovies.
The researchers followed more than 57,000 participants in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health study group, ages 50 to 64 years old, for 14 years. A surprising result of the new study was that only moderate amounts of fish correlated with lower incidence of the heart condition. People who ate fewer or more servings of fish weekly did not see significant benefit. For those who ate up to ten times as much fish, no benefit was seen.
Previous research from the same Danish population showed that acute coronary syndrome, an emergency condition in which a person could have a heart attack because the heart is not getting enough blood, was also significantly lower in people who had fish in their diet.
A Shout-Out for the Mediterranean Diet
Fish oil has been touted as a health-boosting supplement for many areas from diabetes to dementia to heart health. Cardiologist Kevin R. Campbell, MD, FACC, put the new study into perspective: “I think that this study supports the prescription of the Mediterranean diet, which includes three to four servings of fish per week," he said. Dr. Campbell is Director of Electrophysiology at Johnston Health and Assistant Professor in the University of North Carolina Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology.
This is important for patients, Campbell added, because, “Many afib patients also have coronary artery disease. The Mediterranean diet has been also shown to reduce risk of coronary artery disease events by 30 percent and up.”
“This study means that we should continue to prescribe fish-based diets for patients with heart disease, whether it is coronary artery disease or afib,” said Campbell, “but as with most things in life, everything in moderation.”
"Eat a Little Fish, Lower Your Atrial Fibrillation Risk" originally appeared on Everyday Health.