It’s pretty clear from the research that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish, walnuts, flax) can lower your risk of heart disease, but will it help prevent a heart attack if you’ve already had one? A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine discovered that the effect might not be as strong in this population.
However, let’s look a little more closely at this study and we’ll see that there are a couple caveats to the results, which were also pointed out by the researchers.
The first point is that the dosage of omega-3s that the participants were receiving was fairly low. They were using different types of omega 3-fortified margarines, or placebo, but the end intake was less than half of what is recommended by the American Heart Association for patients who already have heart disease.
The next point is that since this group of people had a heart attack in the past, they were already receiving “state-of-the-art” care for heart disease. Almost all of them were on medication to prevent their blood from clotting, reduce blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. Since they were already being treated with these drugs, it’s hard to really know how much of an effect the additional omega 3 intake had on them.
This is all not to say that omega-3s aren’t beneficial; they certainly are for most people. With their anti-inflammatory actions and benefit to the brain and nervous system, they have been shown to potentially help with depression, reducing risk for heart disease in general, and might help with other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
You can always get omega-3s in your diet by including fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring), flax, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. If you think you might need more of a supplement, talk to your doc.