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. 2008 Dec;88(6):1618-25.
doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2007.25816.

Fish Consumption and Risk of Major Chronic Disease in Men

Free PMC article

Fish Consumption and Risk of Major Chronic Disease in Men

Jyrki K Virtanen et al. Am J Clin Nutr. .
Free PMC article


Background: Although fish consumption may reduce specific disease endpoints, such as sudden cardiac death and prostate cancer, the effects of major chronic disease on total burden, reflecting sums of effects on a variety of endpoints and risk pathways, are not well established. Higher n-6 fatty acid consumption has also been hypothesized to reduce the health benefits of n-3 fatty acids in fish.

Objective: The aim was to study the associations of fish and n-3 fatty acid consumption with risk of total major chronic disease (cardiovascular disease, cancer, and death) and to determine whether a high n-6 intake modifies the associations.

Design: Lifestyle and other risk factors were assessed every 2 y and diet every 4 y in 40,230 US male health professionals aged 40-75 y and free of major chronic disease at baseline in 1986. During 18 y of follow-up, 9715 major chronic disease events occurred, including 3639 cardiovascular disease events, 4690 cancers, and 1386 deaths from other causes.

Results: After multivariable adjustment, neither fish nor dietary n-3 fatty acid consumption was significantly associated with risk of total major chronic disease. Compared with fish consumption of <1 serving/mo, consumption of 1 serving/wk and of 2-4 servings/wk was associated with a lower risk of total cardiovascular disease of approximately 15%. No significant associations were seen with cancer risk. Higher or lower n-6 fatty acid intake did not significantly modify the results (P for interaction > 0.10).

Conclusions: Modest fish consumption was associated with a lower risk of total cardiovascular disease, consistent with cardiac mortality benefits but not with total cancer or overall major chronic disease; n-6 fatty acid consumption did not influence these relations.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Relative risk (RR) of major chronic disease (a), total CVD (b), and total cancer (c) according to both fish and n-6 fatty acid intake in 40,230 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Adjusted for age (1-y increments), BMI (quintiles); smoking (5 categories); physical activity (quintiles); presence of diabetes, hypertension, or hypercholesterolemia; family history of myocardial infarction; family history of colon cancer; aspirin use, multivitamin supplement use, glycemic load; and intakes of protein, fiber, trans fat, saturated fat, alpha-linolenic acid, red meat, total calories, and alcohol (each in quintiles). There was no statistical evidence that n-6 consumption modified any of the relationships between fish consumption and the disease outcomes (P for interactions > 0.10).

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