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Seafood and men’s heart health

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New research suggests that eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids may protect men against chest pain. Andrew Cate investigates.

How do omega-3 fats protect your heart?

There is a wide range of heart health benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Some of these benefits include:

  • improved blood triglyceride levels
  • maintenance of a healthy heart rate
  • improved vascular function by maintaining the flexibility of blood vessels
  • an anti-inflammatory effect

A 2009 Danish study has uncovered a new heart health benefit from dietary intake of omega-3 fats in men – a reduced risk of acute coronary syndrome (ACS). ACS is an umbrella term for a range of disorders and symptoms including unstable angina and chest pains.

Did you know?
There is a wide range of heart health benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, including improved blood fats, improved flexibility of your veins and arteries, and maintenance of a healthy heart rate.

The research

The 7.6 year study found that an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids of more than 400 mg daily reduced the risk of some heart conditions in healthy men by 15%. See below for nutritional guidelines on how to achieve this amount.

The research also discovered that above 400 mg daily there was no dose–response relationship between consumption of omega-3 fats and ACS. In other words, a higher fish intake was not associated with further risk reduction.

The three types of omega-3 fats that were examined in the study included eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Another 2009 study published in the European Heart Journal on over 39,000 Swedish men found that consumption of omega-3 fats from fish was associated with lower rates of heart failure. Moderate consumption was described as eating fish rich in omega-3 fats 1-2 times a week. The researchers also found that there was no additional benefits from a higher intake of fish.

Did you know?
Research has shown that men with a moderate consumption of omega-3 fats from fish have a lower rate of heart failure.

Practical tips on getting more omega-3 fats

Research has established that eating fish high in omega-3 fats once or twice a week has distinct heart health benefits for men. But beyond the health benefits, fish and seafood is a tasty addition to your diet – here are some tips:

  • Dinner - Eat a serving (at least 100 g) of cold water fish 1-2 times a week
  • Sandwiches - Use canned fish on a sandwich 1-2 times a week
  • Salads - Use canned fish in a salad 1-2 times a week
  • Lunch - Eat other types of seafood, such as prawns, octopus, squid, muscles and oysters, 1-2 times a week,
  • Don’t negate the benefits - avoid eating fried, battered or crumbed seafood

Did you know?
To get enough omega-3 fats in your diet, eat fish 1-2 times per week, and use canned fish on sandwiches or in salads occasionally.

References available on request