How a simple dietary choice may alter your cardiovascular destiny
(NaturalHealth365) The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids have been widely researched, and are one of the most important nutrients to get into your diet. They affect brain development in children, contribute to mood regulation, decrease inflammation, and have been supported by studies suggesting their positive impact on heart health.
A new study from the Karolinska Institute, however, suggests that consuming oily fish is even more important for the cardiovascular health of those who have a family history of coronary artery disease. The findings were not only consistent with the understanding that polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are important for heart health but even more so for those with increased genetic risk factors.
Let’s take a look at the study and see if a simple dietary choice can change your genetically inclined cardiovascular destiny.
Does our genetic destiny defy common beliefs?
Many people believe that our genes determine everything from weight to cancer risk, but this oversimplification doesn’t hold true. While we currently cannot alter our genes to change our hair color or our height, gene expression for disease risk is more complicated.
Recent studies indicate that numerous genes linked to diseases such as Parkinson’s or cancer must be turned on, oftentimes by factors that cause rampant inflammation, like smoking or a high-sugar diet, for example.
Have you ever wondered why a person who chain-smokes cigarettes for decades may never get lung cancer? Science suggests it might be because their genes lack the catalyst that would be required to trigger such an opportunity.
Sometimes something as simple as a dietary change can protect our body from the inherent damage that genetic predispositions can prime us for. Likewise, similar dietary changes can prevent the genes from ever “switching on.”
Diet might be the most important part of good health
The scientists at the Karolinska Institute wanted to determine if there was additional cardiovascular risk mediation from eating oily fish in patients who had a family history of cardiovascular disease. Studies already exist showing that fish oil and omega-3s – particularly EPA and DHA – reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, so the research was built on that premise.
They observed 40,885 patients who had no indications or history of cardiovascular health at the time of the study. Tissue and blood samples were taken from the patients to evaluate biomarkers for polyunsaturated fatty acid dietary intake. The individuals were then observed for the duration of the study and were reassessed at the time of a cardiovascular event or at the conclusion of the study.
Parameters of the study indicated that they considered a low PUFA intake as lower than or equal to the 25th percentile of PUFA biomarker saturation in giving samples within the studied population. With that information in mind, the study found that people who had a low PUFA dietary intake, along with a family history of cardiovascular disease, were 1.41% more likely to have a cardiovascular event than the rest of the group. People with just a family history but a moderate intake of PUFA had a 1.26 percent increased risk, and those without a family history and a moderate PUFA intake had a 1.06% risk.
While the differences in risks may seem small – 1.41%, 1.26%, and 1.06% for various scenarios involving PUFA intake and family history – it’s important to note their significance in the study. In simpler terms, what you eat and your family history might play a role in your heart health.
Where do I find PUFAs?
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are in their highest concentration in oily fish, so increasing your intake of seafood is a great place to start. In particular, fish like wild-caught salmon are full of omega-3s and one of the healthiest proteins you can eat.
With that said, however, eating fish in this day and age can be a risky prospect. The days of pulling healthy, unspoiled salmon from rivers and having them cooked and brought to your plate are fast dwindling. Most fish you get in a supermarket is farm-raised, and that raises a series of concerns.
Farm-raised fish in the U.S. are often fed diets that are not comparable to wild-caught fish and therefore have an abundance of omega-6 fatty acids. Studies indicate that, if we overeat foods loaded with omega-6 fatty acids, we will tend to increase inflammatory markers in the body. Farm-raised fish from other countries are even worse, typically not having anywhere near the levels of quality control that the U.S. or Europe has, and are therefore exposed to plastic, toxic chemicals, waste products from other livestock, and about a thousand other things that you should never eat.
Wild-caught fish are almost always the best choice, but they are often more expensive compared to their farm-raised counterparts. Having said that, most people would benefit by only eating wild-caught fish 2x / week, a few ounces per serving.
“Fin-tastic” fish picks: Swimming towards better choices
One of the cheapest, most environmentally friendly, and easily accessible fish for your health is sardines. Little canned fish like sardines, mackerel, bristling, and anchovies are cheap, sustainably caught, and have a micronutrient profile full of omega-3s that are perfect for heart health.
You can also opt for wild-caught frozen fish, which are not subject to seasonality and are, therefore, often cheaper. Most fish undergo a freezing process anyway to kill parasites, so unless you live near an ocean, it is unlikely that any “fresh” fish you eat wasn’t frozen at some point and then thawed. This means there is no loss of quality with frozen fish.
When it comes to choosing fish, steer clear of the farm-raised options altogether. If you’re still tempted, make sure to scrutinize their aquaponic methods and feeding practices. Stick to fish from regions like Europe, particularly Scandinavian countries or the U.S., where stringent regulations ensure higher standards.
Simply put, increasing your intake of omega-3s from oily fish is relatively easy. It’s a delicious way to improve your health and is critically important if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease.
Sources for this article include: