Heart patients are being asked to eat more fish as part of a University of Edinburgh study to see if improved diet can reduce the risk of coronary attacks.
The study, funded by a £136,000 grant from the British Heart Foundation, will look at the way fish and fish oil supplements could help reduce inflammation of the arteries and break down the blood clots which cause heart disease. And as such provide a simple and effective treatment for heart disease patients.
Dr David Newby, a senior lecturer in cardiology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, said: "People with a diet rich in fish, such as Eskimos, have a reduced risk of suffering a heart attack. This is likely to be due to the specific actions of fish oils and the research will look at the way this is achieved.
"We will look at the actions of both fish oil supplementation and increased fish consumption on blood vessel function. The benefits of simple changes in diet or the use of food supplements may provide a more acceptable and natural method of preventing heart attacks."
Participants will be patients who have suffered heart attacks and smokers with no history of heart disease. Cigarette smokers are particularly at increased risk of heart disease and have abnormalities in how their blood vessels work. Scientists will look at the effects of fish and fish oil supplements on the blood vessels and blood components.
The research will involve eating fatty or lean fish, or taking fish oil supplements, several times a week for three months. Fatty fish rich in oils include mackerel and salmon whereas cod and plaice are classed as non-fatty lean fish.
British Heart Foundation medical director Professor Sir Charles George said: "The British Heart Foundation recommends eating two portions of fish a week, one of them an oily fish like salmon or mackerel, for a healthy heart. Fish is an excellent source of nutrients and is low in saturated fat."
He continued: "Oily fish contains heart-protecting omega-3 oils known to lower raised blood triglyceride levels associated with a greater risk of coronary heart disease. I hope this study provides a greater understanding of how fish can benefit the heart and arteries and encourages more people to eat more fish and reduce their chances of developing coronary heart disease, the UK's single biggest killer."