The consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as those found in fatty fish, is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, at least if there is a family history of cardiovascular disease.
A new study involving experts from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) examined the interactions between polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and long-term risk of cardiovascular disease. The results are published in the specialist journal “Circulation”.
Omega-3 fatty acids for health
Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are healthy omega-3 fatty acids that have an impact on various functions of the body. According to the team, various research studies have already shown how important it is for general health that one’s diet contains enough of these polyunsaturated fatty acids.
However, there is the problem that the body cannot produce these fatty acids itself, so they have to be consumed through the diet. Oily fish is particularly suitable for this. Types of fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines have a high content of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids?
The team has now examined how the intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids influences the risk of fatal and non-fatal coronary heart disease using data from 40,885 people. All participants did not suffer from any cardiovascular diseases at the start of the study.
Consequences such as unstable angina pectoris, heart attacks, cardiac arrest and strokes were also taken into account.
The researchers analyzed the content of polyunsaturated fatty acids in tissue and blood to determine dietary intake.
“The fact that the measurements of fatty acids in the blood and tissue are objective is an important advantage in contrast to self-reports about dietary habits,” explains study author Karin Leander in a press release.
Over 40 percent increased risk
The results show that it is particularly important for people with a family history of cardiovascular diseases to ensure adequate intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
During the follow-up period, almost 8,000 participants developed cardiovascular disease and participants with low levels of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid as well as close relatives (parents or siblings) who suffered from cardiovascular disease had an increased risk of over 40 percent for cardiovascular diseases, reports the team.
In people with normal levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids and cardiovascular disease in the family, the risk of cardiovascular disease was increased by 25 percent and in people without a family history and with low levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, the risk of cardiovascular disease was increased by six Percent.
Compensate for familial risk through proper nutrition
“Cardiovascular disease is hereditary to some extent, as twin studies show, but it has been difficult to identify the genes that control it. A strong hypothesis is therefore that it is a combination of genetics and environment,” emphasizes Leander.
Here, the study suggests that people with a family history of cardiovascular disease benefit more from eating fatty fish than others. For people with close relatives who have suffered from cardiovascular disease, it may be particularly important to consume sufficient polyunsaturated fatty acids. (as)