Women who seldom or never eat fish may be increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease by 50 percent or more, according to the first population-based study among younger women reported in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Those who ate fish most often, especially fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids, had 90 percent lower risk than those who ate little or no fish.
Fish oil contains long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are believed to protect against heart and vascular disease. Few women in the study took fish oil supplements, so these were excluded from the analyses and the results were based on the dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids, not intake from supplements.
Most previous studies that found cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids have focused on men.
“Men and women share many cardiovascular risk factors, but some studies have shown that there might also be gender differences. For example, inflammation, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels may have a more negative influence among women,” said Marin Strøm, Ph.D., lead researcher and post doctoral fellow at the Centre for Fetal Programming, at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark
“Our study shows that for younger women, eating fish is very important for overall health, and even though we found cardio-protective effects at relatively modest dietary levels, higher levels may yield additional benefits,” Strøm said.
The most common fish consumed by women in the study were cod, salmon, herring, and mackerel.
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