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American Heart Assn. Summary of Recommendations for Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Posted Oct 01 2008 8:24pm

People without documented coronary heart disease (CHD):

  • Eat a variety of (preferably fatty) fish at least twice a week.
    Include oils and foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid (flaxseed, canola and soybean oils; flaxseed and walnuts).

Patients with documented CHD:

  • Consume about 1 g of EPA+DHA per day, preferably from fatty fish. EPA+DHA supplements could be considered in consultation with the physician.
  • Patients who need to lower triglycerides:
    2 to 4 grams of EPA+DHA per day provided as capsules under a physician’s care.
  • Patients taking more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from supplements should do so only under a physician’s care. High intakes could cause excessive bleeding in some people.

Evidence from prospective secondary prevention studies suggests that taking EPA+DHA ranging from 0.5 to 1.8 grams per day (either as fatty fish or supplements) significantly reduces deaths from heart disease and all causes. For alpha-linolenic acid, a total intake of 1.5–3 grams per day seems beneficial.

Increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake through foods is preferable. However, coronary artery disease patients may not be able to get enough omega-3 by diet alone. These people may want to talk to their doctor about taking a supplement. Supplements also could help people with high triglycerides, who need even larger doses. The availability of high-quality omega-3 fatty acid supplements, free of contaminants, is an important prerequisite to their use.

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