LISBON, PORTUGAL. Several studies have concluded that consumption of fish reduces the risk of coronary artery disease. Researchers at the University of Lisbon now add further weight to this conclusion through their publication of a study designed to evaluate the differences in heart disease between a fishing village and an inland rural village on the island of Madeira. The mortality rate from heart disease in Camara de Lobos (the fishing village) was 310/100,000 men during the period 1990 to 1997 as compared to 1205/100,000 men in Curral (the rural village).
Fifty men (aged 25 to 65 years) from the fishing village and 37 men from the rural village participated in the study. They all had fasting blood samples drawn and had their food intake evaluated by 2 nutritionists using a food frequency questionnaire. The men from the fishing village consumed 8 times more fish than did the men in the rural village and as a result had much higher levels of EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, respectfully) in their blood than did the men in the rural village. The researchers observed a good correlation between fish intake and blood levels of EPA and DHA. They also found that the fishing village men had lower levels of triglycerides (28% lower) and total cholesterol (10% lower) than did the men from the inland village. Of particular note was the finding that the ratio of EPA to arachidonic acid in the blood was twice as high in the fishing village as in the rural village. A high ratio has, in other studies, been linked to a lower incidence of blood clots.
The researchers conclude that regular fish consumption is associated with higher blood levels of EPA and DHA, lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and a 4 times lower mortality from coronary heart disease.
Torres, Isabel C., et al. Study of the effects of dietary fish intake on serum lipids and lipoproteins in two populations with different dietary habits. British Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 83, 2000, pp. 371-79