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New Study: Eating More Oily Fish Could Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

A study from Karolinska Institutet indicates that people with a family history of cardiovascular diseases can reduce their risk by consuming more oily fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. This finding is based on the analysis of data from over 40,000 individuals.

A recent study conducted by Karolinska Institutet published in the journal Circulation suggests that individuals with a family history of cardiovascular diseaseCardiovascular disease refers to a group of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, and stroke. It is caused by a variety of factors, including lifestyle choices (such as smoking and poor diet), genetics, and underlying medical conditions (such as high blood pressure and diabetes). Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, but can often be prevented or managed through lifestyle changes, medications, and medical procedures such as bypass surgery and angioplasty.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>cardiovascular disease might benefit from increasing their intake of oily fish.

Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acidAny substance that when dissolved in water, gives a pH less than 7.0, or donates a hydrogen ion.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHADHA, short for docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid that is needed for healthy brains, eyes, and nervous systems. Humans can synthesize small amounts of DHA from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and can get it directly from cold-water, fatty fish like salmon or from fish oil supplements. DHA is especially important for infants, who can get it from maternal breast milk or supplemented formula.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>DHA). These essential fatty acids, vital for various bodily functions, cannot be synthesized by the body and must be acquired through diet. Research consistently highlights the importance of omega-3 in everyone’s diet.

Study Focus on Cardiovascular Disease and Diet

Now a large international study shows that it is likely to be particularly important for people with a family history of cardiovascular disease. The cardiovascular diseases that researchers have looked at are fatal and non-fatal coronary heart disease such as unstable angina, heart attack and cardiac arrest, and cerebral infarction (stroke). 

“Cardiovascular disease is to some extent hereditary, as shown by twin studies, but it has been difficult to identify the controlling genes. A strong hypothesis is therefore that it is a combination of genetics and environment,” says Karin Leander, senior lecturer and associate professor of epidemiology at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Unit for Cardiovascular and Nutritional Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, and research leader of the study. 

Therefore, she and her research colleagues examined the effect of the interaction between family history and dietary intake. In the study, they pooled data from over 40,000 people without cardiovascular disease.

Findings of the Study

During the follow-up period, nearly 8,000 of these suffered from cardiovascular disease. In their analysis, the researchers were able to show that those who had both cardiovascular disease in a close relative such as a parent or sibling, and also low levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA/DHA, had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease of over 40 percent. The elevated risk for those who ‘only’ had cardiovascular disease in the immediate family was 25 percent.

“The study suggests that those with a family history of cardiovascular disease have more to gain from eating more oily fish than others,” says Karin Leander. 

Objective Measurements and New Knowledge

The levels of EPA/DHA were measured in all study participants. Since these fatty acids cannot be produced in the body, the levels are a reliable measure of the dietary intake of oily fish, according to Karin Leander. 

“The fact that the measurements of fatty acids in blood and tissue are objective, as opposed to self-reported data on eating habits, is an important advantage,” she says. 

So, despite being an observational study in an area where there are already plenty of randomized clinical trials, these findings represent completely new knowledge, according to Karin Leander. 

“We are the first to study the effect of the combination of family history and fatty fish intake using fatty acid measurements,” she says. 

Reference: “Role of Polyunsaturated Fat in Modifying Cardiovascular Risk Associated With Family History of Cardiovascular Disease: Pooled De Novo Results From 15 Observational Studies” by F. Laguzzi, A. Åkesson, M. Marklund, F. Qian, B. Gigante, T.M. Bartz, J.K. Bassett, A. Birukov, H. Campos, Y. Hirakawa, F. Imamura, S. Jäger, M. Lankinen, R.A. Murphy, M. Senn, T. Tanaka, N. Tintle, J.K. Virtanen, K. Yamagishi, M. Allison, I.A. Brouwer, U. De Faire, G. Eiriksdottir, L. Ferrucci, N.G. Forouhi, J.M. Geleijnse, A.M Hodge, H. Kimura, M. Laakso, U. Risérus, A.C. van Westing, S. Bandinelli, A. Baylin, G.G. Giles, V. Gudnason, H. Iso, R.N. Lemaitre, T. Ninomiya, W.S. Post, B.M. Psaty, J.T. Salonen, M.B. Schulze, M.Y. Tsai, M. Uusitupa, N.J. Wareham, S.W. Oh, A.C. Wood, W.S. Harris, D. Siscovick, D. Mozaffarian, K. Leander and Fatty Acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCE), 4 December 2023, Circulation.
DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.123.065530

The study was conducted by the Fatty Acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCE), a network of over 100 researchers and experts worldwide. The study includes data from 15 studies conducted in 10 different countries. 

The researchers declare that there is no conflict of interest. The research was funded by the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation. 

Source: SciTechDaily