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Nutrition: Lessons from Euro Prevention 2012

“A Fish a day keeps the Dr away”

Even though the mortality rate from coronary heart disease is continuing to fall, circulatory disorders and heart disease remain the leading causes of death in the UK (British Heart Foundation 2010). This is cause for concern and it is prudent to suggest that prevention is better than cure!

Recently a group of eminent scientists met in Dublin at Euro Prevention 2012, a conference whose aim was to ensure that the newest advances in preventative cardiology are accessible to all health care professionals worldwide.

It is well documented that consumption of oily fish has a protective role in the development of coronary heart disease (Calder and Yaqoob 2012).  The symposium " A fish a day keeps the doctor away", which was a major part of Euro Prevention 2012,  centred on the benefits of the long chain highly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids namely,  Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docasahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in the flesh of oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, trout and sardines and the prevention of coronary vascular disease (CVD).

Indeed the latest European Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention (2012) which were also launched at the meeting, suggest that people should eat fish at least twice a week, one meal of which should be oily fish.  However  whilst this is encouraging there is still much confusion surrounding the use of omega 3 supplements for those individuals who do not wish to include the consumption of such fish in their daily diet.   It would seem that there are many different pharmaceutical omega 3 supplements available in the health food stores and the dosages and strengths of these products vary considerably.  Nurses and healthcare professionals have a responsibility in educating their clients about the risks and benefits of taking such preparations.

Professor Phil Calder from Southampton University one of the renowned omega 3 fatty acid biochemist and nutritionist's suggested that” it is vitally important that health care professionals inform their clients that they require at least 1g of omega 3 a day in order to gain any beneficial effect in the prevention of CHD”.  He went on to propose that where possible it is best practice for us as nurses and other health care professionals to advise our clients to consume oily fish as opposed to taking the omega 3 supplements as it was unlikely that those who took omega 3 supplements would obtain enough omega 3 to sustain any clinical benefit given the diversity of products on the market.

 It is also important to note that fish is not only a good source of dietary protein but also has other nutrients including; selenium, vitamin D and iodine all of which could be beneficial in the prevention of CHD.

As Professor Daan Kromhout from Wageningen University in the Netherlands rightly suggests “eating fish does not provide a panacea against heart disease alone”.  Therefore it is fundamental that we as nurses educate and empower our clients to take responsibility for their health by consuming oily fish as part of a healthy diet, be encouraged not to smoke and  take regular exercise.

Consuming oily fish is just one way in which we can continue to fight against CHD. What other dietary advice are you offering your clients?   The New European Guidelines on CHD prevention offer some excellent evidenced based advice.  I would love to know what you think and share best practice so do let me know.


Calder PC, Yaqoob P (2012) Marine omega 3 fatty acids and coronary heart disease. Cur Opin Cardiol May 4th ahead of print.

European Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice. EHJ 2012. Doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehs092

British Heart Foundation (2010) Coronary Heart Disease Statistics. Accessed online at