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Fish Oil: The Key to a Healthy Heart?

Posted Oct 23 2012 12:00am

Guest post by David Cooper

Consuming either two to three servings of fish per week or taking  fish oil  supplements may prevent heart disease, according to a new University of Reading study. The study, published in Journal of Lipid Research, found that the consumption of fish oil could affect the specific muscle cells that control blood vessel elasticity. 

Fish oil is literally the oil found in fish tissues. These oils contain omega-3 fatty acids - which are well known for their health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids, according to a 2003 study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, has been shown to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of heart attacks.
Previous research has indicated that fish oil increases the release of nitric oxide from the lining of blood vessel walls. This release causes a dilation of the blood vessels and increased blood flow. The University of Reading study, however, found that fish oil might directly effect the muscle cells, rather than just the cells lining the blood vessel wall.

Following fish oil consumption, heart muscle elasticity within the study subjects was four times higher in women and two times higher in men when compared to the control group.  Reduced elasticity can cause high blood pressure and reduced blood flow to the heart, and when blood vessels clog, health problems such as heart attacks can occur.

There are approximately 600,000 deaths due to heart disease annually in the United States. It is the leading cause of death for both men and women. In addition, each year near 1,000,000 people in the US suffer from a heart attack. According to the American Heart Associations 2012 Statistical Update, fish oil has been linked to reduced cardiovascular disease, however many of these studies have low statistical power. 

Further research is required to confirm the results of this study, but these findings do suggest that the combination of exercise and a healthy diet of foods containing of omega-3 fatty acid, such as fish oil, could be fundamental for improved heart health

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