Harvard Men's Health Watch

Fish, not fish oil, prevents stroke

Are you fishing for a way to lower your risk of stroke? If so, put that jar of omega-3 supplements back on the shelf and head for the seafood aisle, according to a science review in BMJ.

Researchers identified published studies that examined the links between stroke and either consumption of fish or intake of omega-3 fatty acids. The search identified 39 separate studies involving a total of 794,000 individuals. Here are the main findings:

  • People consuming two servings of fish per week had a 6% lower risk of stroke compared with people who ate one serving or less. The risk was 12% lower among people who ate up to five servings per week. (A 4-ounce serving of fish is roughly the size of a deck of playing cards.)

  • Intake of omega-3 fatty acids was not associated with lower risk for stroke.

Why does eating fish that contains omega-3 fatty acids reduce stroke risk, but taking the nutrient in the form of a supplement has no effect? The study authors write that the reason is likely to be "the interplay of a wide range of nutrients abundant in fish."

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