Eating fatty fish--such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel--just once a week reduces the chances of suffering a fatal heart attack by 44% compared to eating leaner fish--such as cod and snapper--according to new research by the American Heart Association.
Cardiologist Holly Anderson of the New York Weill Cornell Medical Center says the study, which looked at 4,000 healthy elderly adults, is the latest to show the protective benefits of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Even though a quarter pound of fresh salmon has 4.5 grams of fat and a quarter pound of fresh tuna has 6.5 grams, both are low in calories and contain almost no saturated fat, known to clog arteries.
Anderson explains that the omega-3 acids may actually keep arteries clear.
"Perhaps they cause the prevention of blockages," she says. "They may in some way act as scavengers to help prevent the fat and plaque that's already there anyway."
In October, the American Heart Association for the first time recommended eating at least two servings per week of any kind of fish as part of a healthy diet. It's unclear if this latest study will cause the heart association to adjust its recommendations.
Positive studies on fish have sent sales skyrocketing but the advice can get expensive, especially when it comes to fatty fish. Fresh salmon and tuna can run $10 a pound or more.
While the study didn't compare fresh fish and canned fish, doctors believe canned tuna and canned salmon are healthy choices, too.
The omega-3 supplements that you buy in health food stores have not been proven to provide the same benefit as eating fish, according to Dr. Anderson. Like most nutrients, the best source is usually food.
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