Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease

Penny M. Kris-Etherton, William S. Harris, Lawrence J. Appel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2992 Scopus citations


Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown in epidemiological and clinical trials to reduce the incidence of CVD. Large-scale epidemiological studies suggest that individuals at risk for CHD benefit from the consumption of plant- and marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids, although the ideal intakes presently are unclear. Evidence from prospective secondary prevention studies suggests that EPA+DHA supplementation ranging from 0.5 to 1.8 g/d (either as fatty fish or supplements) significantly reduces subsequent cardiac and all-cause mortality. For α-linolenic acid, total intakes of ≈1.5 to 3 g/d seem to be beneficial. Collectively, these data are supportive of the recommendation made by the AHA Dietary Guidelines to include at least two servings of fish per week (particularly fatty fish). In addition, the data support inclusion of vegetable oils (eg, soybean, canola, walnut, flaxseed) and food sources (eg, walnuts, flaxseeds) high in α-linolenic acid in a healthy diet for the general population (Table 5). The fish recommendation must be balanced with concerns about environmental pollutants, in particular PCB and methylmercury, described in state and federal advisories. Consumption of a variety of fish is recommended to minimize any potentially adverse effects due to environmental pollutants and, at the same time, achieve desired CVD health outcomes. RCTs have demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acid supplements can reduce cardiac events (eg, death, nonfatal MI, nonfatal stroke) and decrease progression of atherosclerosis in coronary patients. However, additional studies are needed to confirm and further define the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for both primary and secondary prevention. For example, placebo-controlled, double-blind RCTs are needed to document both the safety and efficacy of omega-3 fatty acid supplements in both high-risk patients (eg, patients with type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and hypertension, and smokers) and coronary patients on drug therapy. Mechanistic studies on their apparent effects on sudden death are also needed. A dietary (ie, food-based) approach to increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake is preferable. Still, for patients with coronary artery disease, the dose of omega-3 (≈1 g/d) may be greater than what can readily be achieved through diet alone (Table 5). These individuals, in consultation with their physician, could consider supplements for CHD risk reduction. Supplements also could be a component of the medical management of hypertriglyceridemia, a setting in which even larger doses (2 to 4 g/d) are required (Table 5). The availability of high-quality omega-3 fatty acid supplements, free of contaminants, is an important prerequisite to their extensive use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2747-2757
Number of pages11
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 19 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this