The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids have been widely studied after discovering the low level of cardiovascular disease among populations with a high intake of oily fish, such as the Japanese. Consuming oily fish seems to be an important factor in preventing heart attacks and strokes.
The branch of medicine associated with the heart and blood vessels is referred to as cardiovascular. Cardiovascular diseases, mainly heart attack and stroke, are responsible for an estimated 16.6 million deaths a year worldwide according to the World Health Organization. This is one third of the global total
In addition, at least 20 million people survive heart attacks and strokes every year, a significant proportion of these subsequently require continuing clinical care.
Medical investigations and dietary studies around the world have closely linked the consumption of fish, or taking of fish oil supplements, with reduced occurrence of these diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports there is compelling evidence that an increase in the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids as found in oily fish is one of the effective ways of preventing cardiovascular diseases.
The first suggestions of the cardiovascular benefits to be derived from eating oily fish came from the observation that populations that eat fish regularly, such as the Eskimos, Japanese and Koreans, have lower rates of heart disease. This has been substantiated through a series of studies over more than twenty years. The mechanism appears to include counteracting a tendency for blood clots to form in the blood stream. It is also linked with decreased atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries caused by deposits of fatty material), especially if combined with exercise.