Omega-3 Fats Reduce the Risk of Heart Failure

By Michael A. Smith, MD

How many people have to be studied before conventional doctors finally believe that a supplement works? How about 176,441 people? Well, that’s how many people were involved in a meta-analysis of seven clinical studies looking at the effects of omega-3 fats on heart failure.1

The conclusion of the Harvard researchers was this: Omega-3 fats reduce the total risk of heart failure by 15%. Their paper was published online ahead of publication in the journal Clinical Nutrition. The lead investigator said, “Fish and omega-3 fat should be the first line of defense against heart disease death.”

For all of you research purists out there, ourselves included, the results need to be confirmed with a large, multi-center randomized clinical trial. And we are confident that the results of the meta-analysis will be validated and upheld when this happens.

Omega-3 Goes Up and Heart Failure Goes Down

The Boston-based researchers spent long hours crunching the numbers and came the to the conclusion, involving over 176,000 people, that with every 15 gram increase in fish consumption there’s a subsequent 5% drop in the risk of heart failure.

Now the researchers didn’t stop there. They also looked into the different types of omega-3 fats, in particular DHA and EPA. Here, they found for every 125 mg per day increase in both types, there was a 3% decrease in heart failure risk. So it seems that most of the benefit from omega-3 fats, at least in terms of heart failure, comes from EPA and DHA.

The researchers believe that if their findings are “…confirmed by a large, randomized study, EPA and DHA supplements could be added to the list of lifestyle factors and drugs that can be used for the prevention of heart failure.” That’s a powerful statement coming from conventional doctors!

How Do Omega-3 Fats Actually Lower Risk?

The exact mechanism of omega-3 fats’ reduction of heart failure risk is unknown. But the Harvard researchers have put forth some theories:

  1. They lower vascular inflammation and reduce endothelial cell injury (the cells that line the inside of the vessels).
  2. They have been linked to lower levels of triglycerides and improved blood lipids.
  3. They may help to stabilize heart rate.
  4. They can improve ventricular function (the chambers of the heart that push blood out to your body and lungs).
It’s probably all of these working together to reduce the risk of heart failure. And this is exactly why we love natural medicine. Unlike chemical pharmaceuticals which usually target just one mechanism, nutrients seem to have multiple effects across multiple areas of the body. Pretty awesome, right?

Recipe: Grilled Tuna with Basil Pesto

This recipe is straight from the experts at The Food Network. Hopefully, it will help to get you started with increasing omega-3 fats in your diet. But keep in mind, to reach the optimal dose of omega-3 fats, you probably need to consider a supplement as well. Most people should shoot for about 2–4 grams a day.


  • 2 (2-inch thick) tuna steaks (about 1 pound each)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  1. Preheat grill to 400 degrees F.
  2. Wash and pat dry the tuna steaks. Season with salt and pepper and brush both sides with olive oil. Place tuna on hot grill and sear each side for 2 minutes for rare. If you prefer well done, cook the tuna an additional 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from skillet and let it rest.
  3. Into the bowl of a food processor, add the garlic, basil leaves, pine nuts, salt, and pepper. Pulse until finely chopped. With the blender still running, slowly pour 1/2 cup of olive oil. Check for a thick, yet smooth consistency, adding more oil if necessary. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan.
  4. Slice the tuna across the grain and on a bias into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place the slices on a serving plate and drizzle with lemon juice. Sauce tuna with pesto.

Do you have a favorite fish recipe? Please share it with us in the comments below!


  1. Clinical Nutrition. Published ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2012.05.010.


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