Can Eating Fish Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease?

According to a recent most exhaustive study carried out to date, researchers have found that consuming a diet rich in fish or Omega 3 modulates the concentration of lipids which are passed on to cells through lipoproteins and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The research was carried out by Universitat Rovira I Virgili along with researchers from Harvard Medical School.

Through analysis of lipoprotein samples from 26,034 women, the association between the consumption of Omega 3 and the reduction in the risk of suffering cardiovascular disease has been demonstrated by the research teams. It is the largest and most detailed study ever carried out. This study is particularly noteworthy because cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death with 1 in 3 people dying from a cardiovascular event.

Until recently, it has been shown that a high consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids was associated with lower levels of triglycerides in the blood. However, it has also been linked to an increase in LDL cholesterol which is low density cholesterol transported by lipoproteins and also known as bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol increases the risk of a person developing cardiovascular diseases as it can accelerate the formation of atherosclerosis which is the process where the arteries harden and lose their elasticity.

However, the recent study has discovered that increased consumption of LDL cholesterol from fish is associated mainly with the cholesterol transported by the largest LDL particles which are less atherogenic, and not an increase in the total number of LDL particles. The decrease in the number of triglycerides transported by any type of lipoprotein will help protect a person from heart disease.

The three different types of Omega 3 fatty acids studied in the research, namely a-linoleic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are all present in fish and other foods and are known to be essential to human physiology. The study has discovered that they differ in their association with the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

It was found that there was no increase in the smallest LDL lipoproteins which transport cholesterol. Instead the increase was among the largest LDL lipoproteins which are not associated with the risk of heart disease. There was a decrease in all of the triglyceride transporting particles, and the average size of the HDL and LDL particles increased which is a phenomenon that is linked with increased protection from cardiovascular illness.

The conclusions were obtained through mathematical modeling of the consumption of fish and Omega 3 (both as a whole and of the different types of ALA, DHA and EPA) and the profile of lipoproteins. The study results were obtained by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance which can go much further than simply analyzing triglyceride and cholesterol content and can quantify the size and number of the different subtypes of plasmatic lipoprotein. Among the LDL particles that transport cholesterol, it is the smallest that are linked with a future cardiovascular event.

An additional and important element of the study is that the mathematical models that were used to evaluate the link between consumption of fish and the reduction in cardiovascular risk have isolated other nutritional factors that affect the result – such as the concentration of Omega 3 according to the origin of the fish (farmed or wild), the consumption of other foods, and traditional risk factors such as age, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and body mass index.

The study analyzed a cohort from the Women’s Health Study by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and affiliate of Harvard Medical School. It involved the use of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to characterize the plasma of 26,034 women who had an average age of 53 (most participants were between 48 and 59 years of age).

After confirming the risk factor linked with cholesterol concentration, lipids, triglycerides and the different subtypes of particles is modulated by the consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids, the team now wants to find out if the consumption of fish is linked with lower mortality from both cardiovascular diseases and other causes. And although the risk is lower in relation to lipids, they want to look at other pro-inflammatory factors and questions such as exposure to heavy metals.

To view the original scientific study click below

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