Today's edition of the New York Times contained a very interesting piece entitled "In Europe It’s Fish Oil After Heart Attacks, but Not in U.S." This story points out the very disturbing gap between nutritional medicine in Europe and the United States. (The entire article can be found here.)
Every patient in the cardiac care unit at the San Filippo Neri Hospital who survives a heart attack goes home with a prescription for purified fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acids. “It is clearly recommended in international guidelines,” said Dr. Massimo Santini, the hospital’s chief of cardiology, who added that it would be considered tantamount to malpractice in Italy to omit the drug.
The positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids have been documented by numerous studies. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The American Heart Association, and MedicineNet all have the results of such studies available online. The benefits of omega-3 acids are clear, and it would seem that their prescription has become standard practice throughout Europe. Why do Americans not get the same advice?
But in the United States, heart attack victims are not generally given omega-3 fatty acids, even as they are routinely offered more expensive and invasive treatments, like pills to lower cholesterol or implantable defibrillators. Prescription fish oil, sold under the brand name Omacor, is not even approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in heart patients...
...Because prescription fish oil is not licensed to prevent heart disease in the United States, drug companies may not legally promote it for that purpose at conferences, in doctors’ offices, to patients or even on the Internet.
Unfortunately, most Americans remain unaware of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. This is especially troubling given the magnitude of benefits indicated by studies. In the Lyon Diet Study, which studied a Mediteranean-style diet rich in omega-3 acids, patients had a 50–70 percent lower risk of recurrent heart disease after an average 46-month follow-up. The GISSI-Prevention trial randomly assigned more than 11,000 patients with recent heart attacks to four treatment groups; omega-3 fatty acids (850 mg capsule daily), vitamin E, both, or neither (control). The study subjects in all four groups were followed for 3.5 years. Subjects given omega-3 fatty acids had a 20% lower death rate from coronary heart disease than subjects in the other groups.
The good news is that Americans can still decide to increase their omega-3 intake. An important step is to increase the amount of fish in the diet. Replacing meats, especially red meats, with fish on a regular basis is a delicious way to get more fish oil in one's diet. Based on current studies, I recommend three servings of fish per week.
There are also many high-quality supplements available that are perfect for boosting omega-3 acid levels. Based on their quality standards and dedication to filtering out toxins and heavy metals, I recommends products by Carlson Laboratories, Metagenics, Nordic Naturals, Pharmanex, and Premier Research labs. Recommended dosage is one to five grams, with at least two grams for any form of inflammation.