Fish and fish oils contain the omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Epidemiological studies have shown an inverse relation between the dietary consumption of fish containing EPA/DHA and mortality from coronary heart disease. These relationships have been substantiated from blood measures of omega-3 fatty acids including DHA as a physiological biomarker for omega-3 fatty acid status.

Controlled intervention trials with fish oil supplements enriched in EPA/DHA have shown their potential to reduce mortality in post-myocardial infarction patients with a substantial reduction in the risk of sudden cardiac death.

The cardioprotective effects of EPA/DHA are widespread, appear to act independently of blood cholesterol reduction, and are mediated by diverse mechanisms.

Their overall effects include anti-arrhythmic, blood triglyceride-lowering, anti-thrombotic, anti-inflammatory, endothelial relaxation, plus others.

Current dietary intakes of EPA/DHA in North America and elsewhere are well below those recommended by the American Heart Association for the management of patients with coronary heart disease.