Have you ever noticed that nutrition advice seems to change with the tides? It can be hard to distinguish between fads and reliable dietary advice, even on relatively well-known topics like the importance of consuming enough Omega-3 fatty acids. We’ve culled the data, and we think you’ll be pleased with the verdict: yes, if you want to keep your heart healthy, eating seafood is one of your best bets.
According to doctors and dietitians, eating at least one to two servings a week of fish, particularly fish that's rich in omega-3 fatty acids, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, particularly sudden cardiac death.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of "essential,” polyunsaturated fat which the body can't produce on its own and must get from food. There are three main types of Omega-3's: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are found primarily in seafood, and Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found primarily in nuts and seeds.
Omega-3's are vital for proper functioning of the heart (regular rhythm and heart rate), blood (clotting), and blood vessels (vessels’ constriction, relaxation, resistance to inflammation, and maintenance of healthy blood pressure). Since Omega 3's form cell membranes and impact cell receptors throughout the body, they also play a role in proper functioning of the respiratory, endocrine, and immune systems. Likely because of these effects, Omega-3 fatty acids are known to improve heart functioning and reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis.
One of the most well-known clinical trials to examine the impact of fish oil on heart disease is the GISSI Prevention Trial. This study found that, when heart attack survivors took one gram of Omega-3 fats daily for three years, the patients were less likely than those taking a placebo to have a repeat heart attack, stroke, or sudden heart attack death. Unsurprisingly, experts underscore the importance of eating seafood twice weekly to get Omega-3 fats’ health benefits.