Blood levels of seafood and plant-based omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of dying from heart attacks, according to a new epidemiological study, published today in JAMA Internal Medicine, led by Liana C. Del Gobbo, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the division of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.
Researchers from around the world joined together to form the Fatty acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCE). By pooling findings from diverse large studies that had measured blood or tissue levels of omega-3 fatty acids, they evaluated relationships with heart disease events over time. Each study performed new standardized, individual-level analyses. Findings were then centrally pooled in a meta-analysis.
A total of 19 studies were involved from 16 countries and including 45,637 participants. Of these, 7,973 people developed a first heart attack over time, including 2,781 deaths and 7,157 nonfatal heart attacks.
Overall, both plant and seafood-based omega-3s were associated with about a 10 percent lower risk of fatal heart attacks per standard deviation. People with the highest blood levels of omega-3s had about 25 percent lower risk of fatal heart attack, compared to people with the lowest levels. In contrast, these fatty acids biomarkers were generally not associated with a risk of nonfatal heart attacks, suggesting a more specific mechanism for benefits of omega-3s related to death.