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Optimal cardiovascular health requires both omega-3 fatty acids from plants and fish

Optimal cardiovascular health requires both omega-3 fatty acids from plants and fish
Oily fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, but walnuts, linseed and chia contain them as well. Well, fish contain a different type of omega-3 fatty acids than plants, but all omega-3 fatty acids are good for heart and blood vessels. However, some years ago American researchers discovered that the omega-3 fatty acids form plants have a different positive effect on heart and blood vessels than the omega-3 fatty acids from fish. You probably need both types of omega-3 fatty acids to achieve optimal cardiovascular health.

The researchers, who are affiliated with Loma Linda University, published an experimental study in 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They used 25 healthy subjects with a slightly elevated cholesterol level as test subjects.

Three times the researchers gave the subjects a diet that contained just enough energy to stay on weight for a 4 weeks period. The energy came from about 30 percent from fat and 60 percent from carbohydrates.

On one occasion, the subjects received a 'normal' amount of omega-3 fatty acids within [Control diet] - which is way to low according to nutritional scientists.

On another occasion, the researchers got the test subjects to eat a portion of walnuts without changing the calorie intake [Walnut diet]. Yet another time the subjects were given a portion of salmon twice a week [Fish diet].

Optimal cardiovascular health requires both omega-3 fatty acids from plants and fish

Optimal cardiovascular health requires both omega-3 fatty acids from plants and fish

Addition of walnuts to the diet lowered the concentration of the 'bad cholesterol' LDL. "Every 1% decrease in LDL cholesterol results in 2% decrease in risk of cardiovascular & heart disease," the researchers wrote, "which means there is an 18.6% decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease. "

Adding salmon to the diet did not have that effect. Salmon even increased the LDL level.

On the other hand, salmon increased the 'good cholesterol' HDL, and reduced the concentration of triglycerides. These effects more than compensated for the negative effect on LDL, and improved the cardiovascular health of the test subjects - despite the increase in LDL.

Optimal cardiovascular health requires both omega-3 fatty acids from plants and fish

"Although this study does not address the question of whether ALA and EPA/DHA are equivalent, it does provide important information about whole foods that are rich in these omega-3 fatty acids", the researchers wrote.

"One of the dietary strategies to increase a specific nutrient in the diet is to promote the inclusion of specific foods that contain these bioactive nutrients. Individuals who choose to exclude fish from their diet because they are vegetarians or for other reasons may need to consider alternate sources of EPA and DHA - like microalgae oils and DHA-enriched eggs."

"Alternatively, because walnuts seem to influence different blood lipid fraction compared with fatty fish, it would be prudent for those who do eat fatty fish regularly to consider including plant foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids."

"The overall effect on blood lipids when fatty fish and walnuts or other foods rich in EPA/DHA and ALA are combined remains to be determined in future studies and would provide valuable information for use in clinical settings."

Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89(suppl):1657S-63S.

Fish only offers protection against heart attacks if you eat walnuts too 03.02.2017

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