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Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Cardiovascular Risk

      Dietary omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Both epidemiologic and interventional studies have demonstrated beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on many CVD end points, including all CVD (defined as all coronary artery disease [CAD], fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction [MI], and stroke combined), all CAD, fatal and nonfatal MI, stroke, sudden cardiac death, and all-cause mortality. Much of the evidence comes from studies with fish oil and fish; to a lesser extent, data relate to plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids. Cardioprotective benefits have been observed with daily consumption of as little as 25 to 57 g (∼1 to 2 oz) of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, an intake equivalent to ≥1 fish meal weekly or even monthly, with greater intakes decreasing risk further in a dose-dependent manner, up to about 5 servings per week. Fish, including farm-raised fish and their wild counterparts, are the major dietary sources of the longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Sources of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, and soybean oil. Because of the remarkable cardioprotective effects of omega-3 fatty acids, consumption of food sources that provide omega-3 fatty acids—especially the longer-chain fatty acids (≥20 carbons) from marine sources—should be increased in the diet to decrease CVD risk significantly.
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