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Eating Fish Lowers Risk of Female Heart Disease


Greenland’s Eskimo women have been dining on a great deal more fish than their female counterparts around the world for generations. Now, a new study looking at the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in women, is lending support to the notion that these ladies of the Arctic may really be on to something. The study, which focuses on the association between fish and omega-3 fatty acid consumption, and CHD, has been analysed by Dr Frank Hu of the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health in the United States. 

Hu has a team of doctors examining the results of the well-known Nurses? Health Study that started back in 1976. Previous studies have found that populations with a high intake of fish, such as Eskimos in Greenland, Alaskan Natives and Japanese people living in fishing villages, may be more protected against atherosclerosis, the cause of CHD. However, most of these findings have related to men and not women. For the Nurses? Health Study, Some 121,700 women, who were registered nurses aged 30-55 years and living in the USA, completed questionnaires about their lifestyle and medical history. Every two years, follow-up questionnaires were sent to update information and identify new major illnesses. Follow-up surveys in 1984, 1986, 1990 and 1994 asked the women about the kind of sea food they ate ?was mackerel, salmon, sardines, a fillet of barbecued swordfish, a can of tuna, some shrimps, a lobster treat or scallops. From portion sizes, the researchers were able to work out the typical intake of the all important long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. 

During the 16 years of follow-up, there were 1513 incident cases of CHD (484 CHD deaths and 1029 nonfatal heart attacks). Compared with women who rarely ate fish, those with a higher intake had a lower risk of CHD. Dr Hu and his team concluded that, ?this prospective study provides strong evidence for an inverse association between fish and omega-3 fatty acid consumption and risk of CHD in women, particularly CHD death. These findings lend further support to current dietary guidelines recommending fish consumption twice weekly for the prevention of CHD.

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