Fish consumption and heart disease

Posted by on Apr 1, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Fish imageHeart diseases or cardiovascular diseases affect millions of people each year. High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. The bad cholesterol or LDL cholesterol is increased by saturated fats in your diet. Saturated fats can clog up the arteries in the heart and can lead to heart attack. Saturated fats mostly come from animal products while unsaturated fats come from vegetables and some seafood. Fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, and they are the types of unsaturated fatty acid that cannot be made by your body.

Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids lower triglyceride cholesterol level while it raises HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Therefore, it appears to reduce the risk of heart diseases. You can get lots of omega-3 fatty acid from fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, mullet, anchovy, trout, sardines, halibut and herring. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid fish with high mercury contents and it is generally higher in swordfish, king mackerel and shark. If you are a vegetarian, you can get it from flaxseed, walnut and soybean. Flaxseed and linseed oil are rich in omega-3 while canola and walnut oil contain moderate amount of omega-3. Also, omega-3 supplements or fish oil are available in drug stores. However, do omega-3 supplements provide the same benefit on heart diseases as eating fish? We will look into it next.

One of the studies published in the Journal of American Medical Associated showed that omega-3 supplements do not lower the risk of heart diseases including heart attack, stroke and sudden cardiac death. In another study, researchers compared the risk of heart diseases in people who eat two to four servings of fish a week to people who eat less than one serving of fish a week. They found a reduced risk of heart disease in people who eat two to four servings of fish a week. The same benefit on heart diseases was not found in people who take omega-3 supplements. Scientists proposed that the benefit of fish consumption on heart diseases may have to do with a wide range of nutrients found in fish but not in omega-3 supplements.

Contributed by Patricia Hsiao M.D.

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