Context: Dietary fish intake has been associated with a reduced risk of fatal cardiac end points, but not with nonfatal end points. Dietary fish intake may have a selective benefit on fatal arrhythmias and therefore sudden cardiac death.
Objective: To investigate prospectively the association between fish consumption and the risk of sudden cardiac death.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: The US Physicians' Health Study.
Patients: A total of 20 551 US male physicians 40 to 84 years of age and free of myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer at baseline who completed an abbreviated, semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire on fish consumption and were then followed up to 11 years.
Main outcome measure: Incidence of sudden cardiac death (death within 1 hour of symptom onset) as ascertained by hospital records and reports of next of kin.
Results: There were 133 sudden deaths over the course of the study. After controlling for age, randomized aspirin and beta carotene assignment, and coronary risk factors, dietary fish intake was associated with a reduced risk of sudden death, with an apparent threshold effect at a consumption level of 1 fish meal per week (P for trend=.03). For men who consumed fish at least once per week, the multivariate relative risk of sudden death was 0.48 (95% confidence interval, 0.24-0.96; P=.04) compared with men who consumed fish less than monthly. Estimated dietary n-3 fatty acid intake from seafood also was associated with a reduced risk of sudden death but without a significant trend across increasing categories of intake. Neither dietary fish consumption nor n-3 fatty acid intake was associated with a reduced risk of total myocardial infarction, nonsudden cardiac death, or total cardiovascular mortality. However, fish consumption was associated with a significantly reduced risk of total mortality.
Conclusion: These prospective data suggest that consumption of fish at least once per week may reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death in men.