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Sea of science deepens for fish heart benefits

By Stephen Daniells , 16-Dec-2009
Last updated on 16-Dec-2009 at 13:16 GMT2009-12-16T13:16:13Z

Moderate consumption of oily fish may reduce the risk of developing dysfunction in the heart muscle by 50 per cent, says a new study.

A study with almost 500 people with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) were found to have reduced risks of developing left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD) if they consumed moderate amounts of fish, according to findings published in the Journal of Food Science.

“We revealed a dose-response association between fish consumption and the likelihood of developing left ventricular systolic dysfunction after an ACS,” wrote the researchers from the University of Athens.

“In particular, fish consumption of 1 to 2 times per week was independently associated with a considerable reduction of the odds of developing LVSD.”

The heart health benefits of consuming oily fish, and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s by Jorn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. To date, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to improvements in blood lipid levels, a reduced tendency of thrombosis, blood pressure and heart rate improvements, and improved vascular function.

Omega-3 fatty acids, most notably DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), have been linked to a wide-range of health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and certain cancers, good development of a baby during pregnancy, joint health, and improved behaviour and mood.

“Intervention studies have shown that an average daily intake of 0.9 g omega-3 fatty acids, which resembles an intake of 40 to 60 g fish, has no impact on classical coronary heart disease risk factors,” wrote the Athens-based researchers.

“It could be speculated that in our study, the beneficial effect of a mixed type fish intake was observed when the average intake was approximately 20 g per day,” they added.

Study details

The researchers recruited 934 people with ACS and followed them for three years. During the course of the study, 437 people developed LVSD, they said.

Dietary habits were assessed using a food-frequency questionnaire, with the results showing that moderate fish consumption, defined as , was associated with 53 per cent reduction in the risk of developing LVSD compared to no/rare consumption of fish.

In addition, moderate fish consumption was associated with a lower inhibition of the nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme which produces nitric oxide – a potent vasodilator that relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow.

“Moderate fish consumption seems to offer significant protection against the development of systolic dysfunction in post ACS patients, merely attributed to its beneficial effect on oxidation process and endothelial function,” concluded the researchers.

Source: Journal of Food Science
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01425.x
"Moderate Fish Consumption is Associated with Lower Likelihood of Developing Left Ventricular Systolic Dysfunction in Acute Coronary Syndrome Patients"
Authors: C.-M. Kastorini, C. Chrysohoou, P. Aggelopoulos, D. Panagiotakos, C. Pitsavos, C. Stefanadis

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