BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. A 1995 study concluded that men who ate fish five or more times per week had a 40 per cent lower risk of having a stroke than did men who ate fish less than once a week. Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women's Hospital now report that the benefits of fish consumption are even more spectacular for women.
Their study involved 79,839 female nurses who were between the ages of 34 and 59 years at the start of the study in 1980. After 14 years of follow-up a total of 574 strokes had occurred in the group. Most of the strokes (303) were ischemic, i.e. caused by a blood clot. There were also 181 hemorrhagic strokes, i.e. caused by a ruptured artery and 90 strokes of undetermined origin.
After adjusting for age, smoking and other cardiovascular risk factors the researchers concluded that women who ate fish once a week lowered their risk of having a stroke of any kind by 22 per cent and those who consumed fish five or more times per week reduced their risk by 52 per cent. They ascribe the protective effect of fish consumption to the commensurate intake of fish oils (omega-3 fatty acids). They estimate that women whose intake of fish oils is 0.5 gram/day or more have a 30 per cent lower risk of suffering a stroke than do women whose intake is below about 0.1 gram/day. There was no evidence that women with a high fish or fish oil consumption have an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. The researchers believe that the protective effects of fish oils are due to their ability to inhibit platelet aggregation, lower blood viscosity, suppress the formation of leukotrienes, reduce fibrinogen levels and reduce blood pressure levels and insulin resistance. They also note that the beneficial effects of fish consumption were substantially more pronounced among women who did not take aspirin on a regular basis.
Iso, Hiroyasu, et al. Intake of fish and omega-3 fatty acids and risk of stroke in women. Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 285, January 17, 2001, pp. 304-12.
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