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The Big Heart Disease Lie

Cardiovascular Disease Food List

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Reproduced with permission from Arino A, Beltran JA, and Roncales P (2003) Dietary importance of fish and shellfish. In: Caballero B, Trugo L, and Finglas P (eds.) Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2nd edn. Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd. pp. 2471-2478.

Reproduced with permission from Arino A, Beltran JA, and Roncales P (2003) Dietary importance of fish and shellfish. In: Caballero B, Trugo L, and Finglas P (eds.) Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2nd edn. Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd. pp. 2471-2478.

Table 3 Summary of the beneficial effects of eating fish for cardiovascular and other diseases

Cardiovascular disease

Protects against heart disease

Prolongs the lives of people after a heart attack

Protects against sudden cardiac arrest caused by arrhythmia

Protects against stroke (thrombosis)

Lowers blood lipids such as triacylglycerols and VLDL-cholesterol Lowers blood pressure

Other diseases

Protects against age-related macular degeneration Alleviates autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis Protects against certain types of cancer Mitigates inflammation reactions and asthma

VLDL, very low-density lipoprotein.

Reproduced with permission from Arino A, Beltran JA, and Roncales P (2003) Dietary importance of fish and shellfish. In: Caballero B, Trugo L, and Finglas P (eds.) Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2nd edn. Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd. pp. 2471-2478.

The major PUFA in the adult mammalian brain is DHA. It is among the materials required for development of the fetal brain and central nervous system and for retinal growth in late pregnancy. Brain growth uses 70% of the fetal energy, and 80-90% of cognitive function is determined before birth. However, the placenta depletes the mother of DHA, a situation that is exacerbated by multiple pregnancies. Dietary enhancement or fortification with marine products before and during pregnancy, rather than after the child is born, would be of great benefit to the child and mother. Furthermore, the food sources that are rich in DHA are also rich in zinc, iodine, and vitamin A, so it may be possible to provide several dietary supplements at one time. Deficiencies of the latter micronutrients are established causes of mental retardation and blindness.

The typical Western diet has a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids of between 15:1 and 20:1. Several sources of information suggest that a very high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio may promote many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Fish provides an adequate intake of these omega-3 fats, thus improving the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty-acid ratio. Most experts do not advise the routine use of fish-oil supplements: they favor eating fish and shellfish regularly in the context of a healthy diet and a regular pattern of physical activity. Whereas some research shows benefits of fish-oil supplements, research has also shown that people with weakened immune systems should avoid large doses of fish oil. The final conclusion as to whether it is possible to substitute fish consumption with fish oils or omega-3 fatty-acid supplements, and gain the same reduction in mortality from CHD, awaits more studies. However, the protective role of fish consumption is unquestioned.

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