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Fish findings good news for heart disease sufferers
New Australian research has found eating fish may have the edge over fish oil capsules when it comes to lowering blood pressure, a known risk factor for heart disease.
The study, published this month in the Dietitians Association of Australia’s journal Nutrition & Dietetics[i], compared the effect of 1g/day of healthy omega-3 fats from fresh salmon and fish oil capsules on an ‘omega-3 index’ and heart disease risk factors.
Both fish and fish oil capsules increased the ‘omega-3 index’ to the level thought to be linked with a lower risk of dying from heart disease. And eating fish, but not fish oil capsules, was also linked with a marked reduction in blood pressure.
Eleven patients with heart disease, recruited from St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, took part in the study. Participants were mostly working-age males with no smoking history and a moderate alcohol intake.
They either took two fish oil capsules six days a week, or ate two 150g serves of fresh Atlantic salmon per week, over twelve weeks. They then had a ‘wash-out’ period where they went back to their usual diet and didn’t take supplements, before swapping across to the other treatment for a further 12 weeks.
Researcher Catherine Itsiopoulos said the study showed that fish intake may have additional heart health benefits over fish oil for people with heart disease.
‘Fish is a whole food, so as well as omega-3 fats it has other beneficial nutrients such as taurine and selenium. And it may be that eating fish replaces other less healthy foods, meaning a better diet overall,’ said Associate Professor Itsiopoulos, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
She said omega-3 fats have been linked with numerous health benefits, but intake is well below recommended levels in many populations[ii].
Catherine Itsiopoulos’ tips for increasing omega-3 intake through diet:
- Eat two to three meals per week of oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, mackerel or tuna).
- Choose omega-3 enriched eggs
- Use canola oil for cooking, flaxseed oil for making dressings and mayonnaise, and extra-virgin olive oil for dipping, sprinkling and tossing onto vegetables and salads
- Use canola margarine as a spread or in baking
- Switch to omega-3 enriched wholemeal bread
- Try ground flaxseed (flaxseed meal) as a topping on breakfast cereal
- Use lean cuts of meat (beef or lamb).
[i] Brazionis L, Ting E, Itsiopoulos C, Wilson A, Hodge A. The effects of fish or fish oil on the omega-3 index. Nutr Diet 2012;69:5-12.
[ii] Australian guidelines recommend healthy adults eat 500mg/day long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCn3PUFA), and for people with heart disease, this rises to 1,000mg/day. But the last National Nutrition Survey suggests Australians do not meet the recommended intake, with an average intake of 246mg/day.