Get Started Search Icon
With a heavy heart, we share the news of Dr. John McDougall’s passing. A visionary physician and author, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, mentor and friend, Dr. McDougall died peacefully at his home on Saturday, June 22nd, at the age of 77.

Heart Disease Prevention, Aspirin & Fish Oil

The fundamentals of the McDougall Program are simple yet often difficult to implement. Learn about the 12-Day McDougall Program - a life-saving medical program that empowers participants with the knowledge and practical steps needed to live a vibrant, long life. For questions on whether a change in diet can help your ailment, learn more about our consultations.
Learn more

Heart disease and strokes are not due to “any deficiency in aspirin or fish oil”. The wisest way to prevent tragedies from a defective blood vessel system is to deal with the cause: your first-line therapy should be a low-fat, no-cholesterol diet. Add to this sensible diet both daily exercise and healthy habits, and you will be well on your way to protection from heart disease.

Current Treatment: If you do decide to take aspirin too, you should know that small doses are just as effective as larger doses, and cause fewer side effects. As little as 30 mg of aspirin a day will inactivate every platelet in your body. New platelets must be made before any blood clotting activity attributable to them can occur. A tablet of aspirin for adults contains 300 mg. A tablet intended for children, holds only 90 mg. Studies have been done only with doses as small as one 300 mg. tablet, but one “baby aspirin” or 1/4 of an “adult aspirin” a day should be enough. Coated aspirin (Ecotrin) dissolves in the small intestine, thereby avoiding irritation of the stomach’s membranes.

In addition to marine fish, other generous sources of platelet- inactivating omega-3 fats are available, and all are derived from plants, and therefore will be cholesterol-free: walnut oil and walnuts, wheat germ oil, rapeseed oil, soybean lecithin, soybeans and tofu, common beans, butternuts, and certain edible seaweeds. (But don’t forget the adverse effects of oils derived from plants.) Purslane is a vegetable eaten extensively in Greece, where the incidence of both heart disease and cancer is low. Purslane is the richest source of these beneficial omega-3 fats of any plant yet studied. Because of that happy fact, you may find this leafy vegetable becoming a popular food item in the United States.

Second-line therapy might include an aspirin tablet a day for those people at high risk for a heart attack or a stroke. In the form of leafy green vegetables and beans the omega-3 fats would have few, if any, drawbacks. I don’t recommend fish oil.

  • Related Video

  • Recommendations

    Thinning the blood should be second-line therapy. Fish fats (oils) and aspirin, if used at all, should be thought of as second line treatment–as is true with any medication. I prefer aspirin rather than fish oil for almost all patients because it has fewer side effects and costs less.

    Your primary approach is to take advantage of every benefit that comes from correcting your diet and lifestyle, first. Controlling self-destructive behavior is not a “quick-easy fix.” But dealing with the cause of your health problems is the only sure way to reach a cure. For a complete discussion of cholesterol and heart disease see “The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart” Dutton 1996 in your bookstores or order through our home page.

  • References

    DeWood, M. Prevalence of total coronary occlusion during the early hours of transmural myocardial infarction. N Engl J Med 303:897, 1980

    Antiplatelet Trialists’ Collaboration. Secondary prevention of vascular disease by prolonged antiplatelet treatment. Br Med J 296:320, 1988

    Orme, M. Aspirin all round? Br Med J 296:307, 1988

    Yetiv, J. Clinical applications of fish oils. JAMA 260:665, 1988

    Glomset, J. Fish, fatty acids, and human health. N Engl J Med 312:1253, 1985

    Herold, P. Fish oil consumption and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease: a comparison of findings from animal and human feeding trials (review). Am J Clin Nutr 43:566, 1986

    Harris, W. Effects of a low saturated fat, low cholesterol fish oil supplement in hypertriglyceridemic patients–a placebo-controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 109:465, 1988

    Glauber, H. Adverse metabolic effect of omega-3 fatty acids in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Ann Intern Med 108:663, 1988

    Weiner, M. Cholesterol in foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (letter). N Engl J Med 315:833, 1986

    Simopoulos, A. Purslane: a terrestrial source of omeg-3 fatty acid (letter). N Engl J Med 315:833, 1986

    Hopkins, G. Polyunsaturated fatty acids as promoters of mammary carcinogenesis induced in Sprague-Dawley rats by 7,12-Dimethylbenz[a]anthracene. JNCI 66:517, 1981

    Foran, J. Increased fish consumption may be risky (letter). JAMA 262:28, 1989

    Olsen, S. Intake of marine fat, rich in (n-3)-polyunsaturated fatty acids, may increase birth weight by prolonging gestation. Lancet 2:367, 1986

    Barnard, R. Effects of a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet on serum lipids, platelet aggregation and thrombaxane formation. Prostaglandins Leukot Med 26:241, 1987

    Saunders, T. Dietary fat and platelet function. Clin Sci 65:343, 1983

    Meade, T. Hypercoagulability and ischemic heart disease. Blood Rev 1:2, 1987