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Jun 13, 2018

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Seafood Help Prevent Heart Disease

The American Heart Association recommends 1–2 servings of fish per week to help prevent heart disease. 

A recent advisory from the American Heart Association adds to existing guidelines on the heart-health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

Published in the journal Circulation, this statement focused specifically on the benefits of seafood consumption in an effort to provide clear recommendations for a heart-healthy diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids, formally known as n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, are healthy fats naturally contained in certain foods like flaxseed and fish. They’re believed to have a protective effect on heart health and are currently recommended to reduce risk for heart disease.

But how much seafood should be consuming to achieve those heart-health benefits?

According to the latest statement, experts recommend consuming seafood at least one to two times a week—especially species that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and tuna. Evidence has linked 1–2 servings of seafood a week to reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and death. The benefits could be especially promising in individuals who replace unhealthy foods with heart-healthy seafood, thus improving their overall diet.

Authors note that consuming more than two servings of seafood a week does not appear to have any benefit or harm. The impact of seafood consumption on risk for heart failure and high blood pressure is unclear, largely due to a lack of evidence.

Experts also clarify that not all seafood is considered equal. According to authors, cold-water oily fish like salmon and tuna have the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, while shrimp, lobster, scallops, tilapia and cod contain lower levels of the healthy fat. So when possible, it’s important to choose seafood that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids to achieve the greatest health benefits.

Currently, the American Heart Association recommends consuming 250 mg/day of omega-3 fatty acids, which is usually covered by eating 1–2 servings of fish a week.

As authors explain, seafood is an essential part of any heart-healthy diet and can help significantly lower risk of heart disease—the leading killer of Americans.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a heart-healthy diet?

  • A heart-healthy diet is full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy, fish and nuts as part of a balanced diet. It’s important to limit intake of added sugars, salt (sodium) and bad fats (saturated and trans fats).

  • In what foods are n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found?
  • N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can be found on most oily fish like salmon, sardines, trout, and mackerel, and in fish oils. These can be found in their natural forms, as well as in daily supplements.

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