March 8 (UPI) -- Adults with heart disease who consume 6 or more ounces of fish per week can reduce their risk for more serious heart complications or death by up to 20%, a study published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine found.
Eating about 6 ounces, roughly two servings, of fish such as salmon, tuna or sardines lowered the risk for death during the nine-year study period among those with heart disease by 18%, the data showed.
Fish consumption also reduced the risk for more serious heart disease among those already diagnosed with the condition by 16%, the researchers said.
"Eating at least two servings of fish each week appears to modestly lower your risk of future cardiovascular events and death if you have pre-existing [heart] disease," study co-author Andrew Mente told UPI.
"If you're generally healthy, the health benefit is not clearly apparent but it's probably still a safe food choice," said Mente, an associate professor of epidemiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Fish that "contain high amounts of omega-3 fats, or so-called oily fish, such as herring, mackerel, sable, salmon, tuna and sardines" seem to provide the most protection against progression of heart disease, Mente said.
Researchers have extolled the heart benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for decades, but just how much of the nutrient needs to be consumed to provide protection remains up for debate.
For this study, the researchers analyzed data on nearly 150,000 adults ages 46 to 62 from 21 countries, roughly 8,000 of whom had been diagnosed with heart disease by the time the study began.
The researchers followed the study participants for about nine years.
Among those with no history of heart disease, eating 12 ounces, about four servings, or more per week of fish high in omega-3 had little to no effect on risk for severe heart disease or death from heart disease.
Compared with people who consumed very little fish or none at all, those who took in four servings or more a week saw their risk for heart disease drop by less than 5%, the researchers said.
However, among those already diagnosed with heart disease, consuming two or more servings of omega-3-containing fish per week lowered the risk for more serious heart disease by 16%, they said.
"Some, but not all, clinical trials have shown that fish oil supplements may offer modest protection against risk of cardiac death among patients with [heart] disease," Mente said.
"So, a fish oil supplement may offer some protection if you're an individual at high risk for cardiovascular events," he said.