Eating fish on a regular basis can substantially lower levels of inflammation associated with heart disease risk, according to a study that appeared in the July 5 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The study also found that even small, lean varieties of fish can have a health benefit. This is significant because previous studies have found a heart benefit only from eating fatty, cold-water fish, such as salmon, which contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
More than 3,000 Greek men and women (average age about 45 years) participated in the study. The researchers found that inflammation levels were about 33% lower in those who ate 10.5 ounces of fish per week than in those who ate no fish. However, “significant reductions in [the] inflammatory markers occurred when people ate even small quantities of fish—as low as several ounces per week,” said Robert Wilson, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School, who was not involved in the study.
Two caveats: First, the best way to eat fish is probably baked, according to study coauthor Demosthenes Panagiotakos, who advises steering clear of fried fish. Second, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration recommend that owing to mercury levels, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children should avoid certain fish (e.g., shark, swordfish, mackerel and tilefish) and limit their fish intake to about 12 ounces a week.