Including Fish In Your Healthy Diet Is ‘a Great Idea’ For Your Heart

A diet rich in fish or high in omega 3 modulates the concentration of lipids transported to the cells, reducing the chances of arteriosclerosis, that is, hardening of the arteries.

Researchers from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and the Harvard Medical School have shown that fish, as the main source of omega 3, and the supplements of these fatty acids can modulate lipoproteins – the particles that transport lipids through the blood– and thus influence the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, compiles the analysis of the lipoprotein sample of 26,034 women with a mean age of 53 years, the most extensive and detailed that has ever been done. For experts, it is especially relevant because it is the disease with the highest incidence, since 1 in 3 people dies from these pathologies.


Until now, very high intakes of omega 3 fatty acids have been found to be associated with lower blood triglyceride levels. But, at the same time, it had also been related to an increase in LDL cholesterol – known as bad cholesterol -, capable of accelerating the formation of arteriosclerosis, that is, the hardening of the walls of the arteries and the decrease in their elasticity.

However, this new study has found that this increase in LDL cholesterol from fish consumption is mainly associated with transport by the larger LDL particles, which are less atherogenic (with less potential for blockage of the arteries), and not a increase in the total number of LDL particles.

The work has been done through the mathematical modeling of the association of fish and omega 3 intake and the lipoprotein profile obtained by nuclear magnetic resonance, “which allows quantifying the number and size of the different plasma lipoprotein subfractions, in addition of the triglycerides and additional cholesterol content ”, explains Núria Amigó, researcher at the URV and leader of the study.

Protective factor of the heart

The fact that triglycerides carried by any type of lipoprotein decrease are a protective factor against heart disease. This is so because the consumption of the three types of omega 3 fatty acids fundamental in human physiology studied – α-linoleic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – present in fish and other Nutritional sources differ in their association with the potential risk of these pathologies.

The study confirms that the smaller LDL lipoproteins that carry cholesterol do not increase, but there is an increase in large ones, which have no associated risk.

Thus, there is a decrease in all the triglyceride transporting particles and, in addition, the average size of the HDL and LDL particles increases, which is associated with the protection of cardiovascular risk.

According to Amigó, the LDL particles that transport cholesterol “are the smallest ones that are associated with an increased risk of future cardiovascular accident.”

How other factors influence

Another peculiarity of the study is that the nutritional elements that could condition the result have been isolated in the mathematical models used to assess the association between fish consumption and reduction of cardiovascular risk, such as the intake of other foods, the concentration of omega 3 according to the type and origin of fish (wild or farmed) and traditional risk factors (sedentary lifestyle, age, body mass index and tobacco use).

Once confirmed that the risk factor that lipids represent is modulated by consuming omega-3 fatty acids, “it remains to be seen whether fish intake is associated with less mortality for both cardiovascular diseases and other causes,” says Amigó, since “although the risk is lower for lipid reasons, it would be necessary to observe other proinflammatory factors or exposure to heavy metals,” he concludes.


Nuria Amigó, Akintunde O. Akinkuolie, Stephanie E. Chiuve, Xavier Correig, Nancy R. Cook and Samia Mora. Habitual Fish Consumption, n ‐ 3 Fatty Acids, and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Lipoprotein Subfractions in Women. Journal of the American Heart Association, February 27, 2020. DOI: 10.1161 / JAHA.119.014963

Source: Sinc Agency

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