Adding Fish to Diet Important for Heart Health in Middle-Age Men and Women

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Fish has been an acquired taste for me. My family rarely ate seafood (with the exception of shrimp) when I was growing up. And when we did eat it, it was often fried or breaded. Now, all these many years later, I find that I’m opting for seafood more often when I dine out. And I am also regularly adding fish to my shopping cart when I go grocery shopping. And it turns out that these choices may be doing a world of good for my health as well as that of my dad’s.

    HealthDay reported on a study published in 2009 that found that study participants' hearts benefited by eating baked or boiled fish. However, they didn't benefit from consuming fried, dried, or salted fish. The researchers followed 82,243 men and 103,884 women between the ages of 45-75 who lived in Los Angeles County and Hawaii.  These participants had no history of heart disease when they started the longitudinal study.  Researchers found that men who consumed about 3.3 grams per day had a 23% lower risk of cardiac death than those who ate 0.8 grams per day. However, researchers could not find a similar association between omega-3 fatty acid intake and reduced risk of cardiac death among women who participated in the study.

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    Two years later, researchers have added women as those who benefit from diets that regularly include fish. A new study makes a strong case for adding fish to postmenopausal women’s regular diet.  This study that was reported in Circulation: Heart Failure (an American Heart Association publication) analyzed self-reported dietary data from 84,493 postmenopausal women who took part in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Study participants were separated into two groups based on the frequency that they ate fish as well as the type of fish they consumed. The researchers also identified two types of preparation methods – baked/broiled (canned tuna, tuna salad, tuna casserole, white fish, dark fish, and shellfish) and frying (fried fish, fish sandwich and fried shellfish).

    The researchers found that postmenopausal women in the study who ate the most baked/broiled fish (five or more servings/week) had a 30% lower risk of heart failure compared to women who seldom ate it (less than one serving/month). However, postmenopausal women who opted for fried fish increased their risk of heart failure. Additionally, just eating one serving of fried fish per week was associated with a 48% higher risk of heart failure. Dark fish, such as salmon, mackerel and bluefish, were associated with a significantly greater risk reduction than that of white fish, such as sole, snapper and cod, or tuna.

    At this time of year, I also try to grill more fish. According to the University of Virginia’s Health System  Club Red website, there are some concerns (although the website seems to indicate these concerns are more about meat and chicken than fish). Cooking at very high heat can produce heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are thought to promote cancer. In addition, grilling can result in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) resides through dripping fat from meat or chicken that hits the flames; PAHs also have been linked to cancer. However, you can reduce HCAs and PAHs through the following:

    • Use small cuts of muscle meats so they cook quickly.
    • Marinate meats before grilling, which (according to the American Institute for Cancer Research) may reduce HCAs by up to 90 percent.
    • Place fish away from the highest flames.
    • Keep fish cool until it’s time to grill it (or eat it).
    • Avoid eating blackened or charred food.

    The Environmental Defense Fund recommends opting for fish that are high in omega-3s, low in environmental contaminants, and eco-friendly. These fish include:

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    • Wild salmon from Alaska (fresh, frozen and canned),
    • Arctic char
    • Atlantic mackerel
    • Sardines
    • Sablefish
    • Anchovies
    • Farmed oysters
    • Farmed rainbow trout
    • Albacore tuna from the U.S. and Canada.

    The EDF also produces a complete list of eco-safety ratings, which comes in handy when you’re shopping for fish.

    And in case you’re not used to cooking fish, here are some recipes that I’ve found that are very tasty:


Published On: June 02, 2011