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Omega 3s Show Health Benefits for Non-Fish Eaters

Increased intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the risk of heart disease and heart attack in people with low fish intakes, says a new study from The Netherlands. Daily intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) of about 240 milligrams was associated with a 50 per cent reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), compared with intakes of about 40 milligrams, according to findings published in the Journal of Nutrition. Furthermore, the highest average intake of DHA and EPA was associated with a 38 per cent reduction in the heart attack, said researchers from Wageningen University following a study with over 21,000 people with low fish intakes.

The heart health benefits of consuming oily fish, and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s by Jorn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. To date, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to improvements in blood lipid levels, a reduced tendency of thrombosis, blood pressure and heart rate improvements, and improved vascular function.

Omega-3 fatty acids, most notably DHA and EPA, have been linked to a wide-range of health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and certain cancers, good development of a baby during pregnancy, joint health, and improved behaviour and mood.

Study details

Intakes of EPA plus DHA, and fish were assessed in 21,342 people aged between 20 and 65. Fish intakes ranged from 1.1 to 17.3 grams per day. Over the course of an average of 11.3 years, the researchers documented 647 deaths, of which 82 were linked to coronary heart disease, with 64 of these being heart attack.

According to the results, the highest average intake of EPA plus DHA (234 milligrams per day) was associated with a 51 per cent reduction in the risk of fatal CHD, compared to the lowest average intake (40 mg per day).

“In conclusion, in populations with a low fish consumption, EPA+DHA and fish may lower fatal CHD and [heart attack] risk in a dose-responsive manner,” wrote the researchers.

Source: Journal of Nutrition
“Marine (n-3) Fatty Acids, Fish Consumption, and the 10-Year Risk of Fatal and Nonfatal Coronary Heart Disease in a Large Population of Dutch Adults with a Low Fish Intake”
Authors: J. de Goede, J.M. Geleijnse, J.M. A. Boer, D. Kromhout, W. M.M. Verschuren

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Calcium may help you live longer

All had reported on their diet at the beginning of the study. During follow-up, about 2,358 died.

The top calcium consumers had a 25 percent lower risk of dying from any cause and a 23 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease during follow-up relative to men that had the least amount of calcium in their diet. Calcium intake didn't significantly influence the risk of dying from cancer.

Men in the top third based on their calcium intake were getting nearly 2,000 milligrams a day, on average, compared to about 1,000 milligrams for men in the bottom third. The US Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium intake is 1,000 milligrams for men 19 to 50 years old and 1,200 milligrams for men 50 and over. “Intake of calcium above that recommended daily may reduce all-cause mortality,” Kaluza and her colleagues conclude.

Calcium could influence mortality risk in many ways, they note, for example by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels. For the men in the study, the main sources of calcium in the diet were milk and milk products and cereal products. In contrast to calcium, there was no relationship between magnesium consumption and overall mortality or deaths from cancer or heart disease. Study participants' intakes ranged from around 400 milligrams per day to around 525 milligrams; the RDA for magnesium is 420 milligrams for men 31 and older.

This analysis, the researchers say, may have found no effect for magnesium because all of the men in the study seemed to be getting enough of the mineral in their diet. “Further studies are needed in other populations with lower dietary magnesium intakes to address this issue,” they say. Future research should also look into calcium and magnesium intake from drinking water, they add, which can be a significant source of these minerals.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology

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