Eating oily fish ‘can mend heart’

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Published: Thursday 12th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Eating oily fish has long been known to keep your heart healthy but scientists have also found it can mend a damaged heart.

Diets high in omega-3 fatty acid foods could also help fix damaged blood vessels faster, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, a study has discovered.

Around seven million people in the UK suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease and someone dies of a heart attack every six minutes.

Professor of nutritional physiology Parveen Yaqoob, who conducted the study, said m any of these deaths are preventable by leading a healthy lifestyle, including diet.

She carried out the study by testing two emerging markers of cardiovascular disease which are of particular interest to researchers.

The first was endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), which are stem cells made in the bone marrow that repair the linings of blood vessels when they become damaged.

Previous studies have found a higher number of EPCs is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

To test this the researchers introduced small amounts (3g per day) of fish oils to a group of volunteers of mixed ages with mild cardiovascular risk.

At the end of the eight-week period this study group increased their EPCs numbers by up to 15% compared to a control group, Prof Yaqoob found.

The second marker, endothelial microparticles (EMPs), are tiny circular vesicles which are shed when the lining of blood vessels is damaged.

Large numbers of these indicate a high degree of blood vessel damage and are associated with a greater risk of heart disease.

At the end of the trial, the group consuming the oily fish decreased EMPs by 20% in comparison to the control group.

Prof Yaqoob, from the University of Reading’s Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, said her findings were a “surprise”.

“Our study shows that fish oils could be better for our heart in more ways than previously thought, decreasing damage to the lining of blood vessels and by increasing the numbers of cells which repair those linings,” she said.

She said the study also offers new insight into exactly why oily fish is good for our health as little robust research has been conducted on EPCs and EMPs until now, with routine markers of cardiovascular disease such as cholesterol usually being focused on.

“Both are of great interest because we know where the cells are coming from and what they might be doing in the blood vessels,” she said.

“This means that we can try to find ways to target them to improve blood vessel health.”

Published: Thursday 12th February 2015 by The News Editor

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