Research shows how heart disease can be prevented or managed through lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise. One such study from McMaster University in Canada has found that eating oily fish regularly can help prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) in high-risk individuals.
The study involved an analysis of previous research involving 192,000 people from more than 60 countries. Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the studies included almost 52,000 with cardiovascular disease.
Previous research has mainly focused on North America, Europe, China, and Japan, with little information from other regions. This makes this analysis the most diverse study of fish intake and health outcomes in the world. It is also the only one with sufficient representation from high, middle, and low income countries from all inhabited continents of the world.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid
Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acid, so researchers believe it can lower the risk of major CVD events such as heart attacks and stroke. These risks have been found to be reduced by about a sixth in high-risk people who ate two servings of fish rich in omega-3 each week. The benefit of the fish in a weekly diet was not observed in those without heart disease or stroke.
“There is a significant protective benefit of fish consumption in people with cardiovascular disease,” said lead co-author Andrew Mente.
“This study has important implications for guidelines on fish intake globally. It indicates that increasing fish consumption and particularly oily fish in vascular patients may produce a modest cardiovascular benefit.”
Fish is a good source of protein, and unlike fatty meat products, it’s not high in saturated fat. When selecting fish for a healthy diet, keep in mind the fish’s mercury levels along with the omega-3s. For example, fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish contain high mercury levels and should be avoided. Eating various fish will help minimize any potentially adverse effects due to environmental pollutants such as mercury.
Many types of fish and shellfish have high levels of omega-3 and low levels of mercury. These include canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. For a heart-healthy diet, try to have fish that is rich in omega-3 at least twice a week.