Are you a fan of fish? Well, there’s good news for you!
A study recently published on the British Medical Journal website suggests that having at least two servings of oily fish per week can slightly but significantly decrease the risk of having a stroke.
Interestingly, taking fish oil supplements does not seem to have the same effect.
Eating fish regularly, particularly those rich in long chain omega 3 fatty acids like mackerel and sardines, has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
That’s why current guidelines recommend eating at least two servings of fish a week. However, whether the same benefits apply to reducing stroke risk was not as clear.
To address this, an international team of researchers examined 38 studies to better understand the relationship between eating fish and the risk of stroke or mini-strokes (also known as transient ischaemic attacks or TIAs).
Together, these conditions are referred to as cerebrovascular disease.
The 38 studies involved almost 800,000 people from 15 countries, some of whom had established cardiovascular disease, while others were lower-risk individuals without the disease. The researchers made sure to consider differences in the quality of these studies to avoid bias in their analysis.
Fish and long chain omega 3 fatty acid consumption was assessed using dietary questionnaires, looking for omega 3 fat markers in blood, and tracking the use of fish oil supplements. During the studies, 34,817 cerebrovascular events were recorded.
After adjusting for various risk factors, the researchers found that participants eating two to four servings of fish a week had a 6% lower risk of cerebrovascular disease compared to those eating one or fewer servings a week. Those who ate five or more servings a week had a 12% lower risk.
Every extra two servings of fish per week was associated with a 4% reduced risk of cerebrovascular disease. On the other hand, blood levels of omega 3 fats and the use of fish oil supplements didn’t significantly affect the risk.
The researchers suggest several reasons why eating fish might be good for vascular health. For instance, fish is rich in vitamins and essential amino acids that might interact beneficially. Eating more fish could also mean eating less of other foods, like red meat, that can harm vascular health.
Alternatively, eating more fish might just indicate a healthier diet or higher socioeconomic status, both linked with better vascular health. Differences in benefits between white and oily fish could be due to cooking methods, as white fish is often battered and deep-fried, adding potentially harmful fats.
Even though there might be some other factors not measured in the study that could affect their results, the authors believe that their findings highlight a potential modest benefit of fish intake in preventing cerebrovascular disease.
So next time you’re deciding what’s for dinner, it might be a good idea to put some fish on the menu!