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Heart Disease Health Center

Fish Oils May Be Lifesavers

Fatty Acids in Fish Might Save More Lives Than Defibrillators, Experts Say
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WebMD Health News

Aug. 30, 2006 - Fish oils in fatty fish like salmon might be even better than heart devices called defibrillators at preventing sudden death from heart problems.

"Choosing fish two or three times a week is a good idea," researcher Thomas Kottke, MD, MSPH, tells WebMD.

"Grilled, baked, or broiled -- not fried," he adds. "Fried fish appears to lose all of its benefits."

The study by Kottke and colleagues will appear in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine's October edition.

Kottke works in St. Paul, Minn., at Regions Hospital's Heart Center.

Sudden Death Risk

Kottke's team created a computer model to check sudden death risk in a fictional group of people aged 30-84 in Olmstead County, Minn.

The researchers tested several scenarios.

In one scenario, people ate adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil supplements (in reality, the typical Western diet is short on omega-3 fatty acids).

In another scenario, automated external defibrillators (AEDs) were available in people's homes and in all public areas.

AEDs are used to shock the heart back into action if it develops a fatal rhythm problem that can result in sudden death.

In a third scenario, people who needed implantable defibrillators because of heart failureheart failure got those devices. Heart failure greatly increases the chance of sudden death.

Fish Oils Trumped Defibrillators

All three scenarios lowered sudden death risk. But omega-3 fatty acids yielded the best results -- even in healthy people.

Sudden death risk dropped 6.4% with adequate omega-3 fatty acid intake, compared with 3.3% for implantable defibrillators, and less than 1% with easy access to AEDS, the study shows.

What's more, about three-quarters of the imaginary lives saved in the omega-3 group were healthy people, note Kottke and colleagues.

Defibrillators Added Benefit

The researchers aren't saying defibrillators don't work. Those devices can save lives, Kottke's team writes.

In fact, sudden death risk was reduced most by combining all three scenarios - getting enough omega-3s, distributing AEDs, and giving appropriate patients implantable defibrillators.

But when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure may sum up the study's findings.

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