Women who eat more than three servings of fish per week are less likely to experience a stroke, a new study suggests. Specifically, fish-lovers in Sweden were 16 percent less likely to experience a stroke over a 10-year-period, relative to women who ate fish less than once a week. “Fish consumption in many countries, including the U.S., is far too low, and increased fish consumption would likely result in substantial benefits in the population,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health. When choosing fish to eat, it’s best to opt for fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, found most abundantly in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna. “But any fish is better than none,” Mozaffarian noted.
“Indeed, these fatty acids likely underlie the benefits of fish on stroke risk”, said study author Dr. Susanna Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. “These fatty acids may reduce the risk of stroke by reducing blood pressure and blood (fat) concentrations.”
This is not the first study to suggest that people who eat more fish have a lower risk of stroke, and experts already recommend a fishy diet to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, Mozaffarian added. “This study supports current recommendations.” Earlier this year, for instance, a study showed that middle-aged and older men who eat fish every day are less likely than infrequent fish eaters to develop a suite of risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
In the current study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Larsson and her colleagues looked at 34,670 women 49 to 83 years old. All were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at the beginning of the study, in 1997. During 10 years of follow-up, 1,680 of the women (4 percent) had a stroke. Stroke caused by blockage of an artery that supplies blood to the brain — also known as a “cerebral infarction” or “ischemic stroke” — was the most common event, representing 78 percent of all strokes in the study. Other types of strokes were due to bleeding in the brain, or unspecified causes.
Women who ate more than three servings of fish per week had a 16 percent lower risk of stroke than women who ate less than one serving a week. “Not a small effect,” Mozaffarian said, noting that it was roughly equivalent to the effect of statin drugs on stroke risk. Furthermore, the researchers asked women about their diets only once, using a questionnaire, which might have caused errors that would underestimate the link between a fishy diet and stroke risk, he explained. “So, the true risk reduction may be larger.”
Interestingly, women appeared to benefit most from eating lean fish, when other research shows fatty fish is better for health. This finding may stem from the fact that most fatty fish, such as herring and salmon, is eaten salted in Sweden, Larsson explained. “A high intake of salt increases blood pressure and thus may increase the risk of stroke,” she said. “So the protective effects of fatty acids in fatty fish may be attenuated because of the salt.”
Indeed, when it comes to fish, not all have equal benefits, Mozaffarian noted – for instance, he said, research has not shown any cardiovascular benefits from eating fast food fish burgers or fish sticks. In addition, women of childbearing age should avoid certain types of fish known to carry relatively high levels of pollutants, such as shark and swordfish, Mozaffarian cautioned. “This is a very, very short list of fish to avoid or minimize — there are many, many other types of fish to consume,” he said. “Women at risk of stroke are generally beyond their child-bearing years, and so for these women, all types of fish can be consumed.”
Larsson and her team speculate that certain nutrients in fish, such as fatty acids and vitamin D, might explain its apparent benefits. The Swedish study cannot prove cause and effect for high fish consumption and lowered stroke risk, however. For instance, fish consumption could be a sign of a generally healthier lifestyle or some other mechanism at work. Last December, Larsson and colleagues published data from the same group of women in the journal Stroke showing that those who eat a lot of red meat may also be putting themselves at increased risk of stroke.
SOURCE: bit.ly/dKunk8 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online December 29, 2010.
The American Heart Association has compiled its annual list of the top 10 major advances in heart disease. “We have come far in the past decade, reducing heart disease deaths by more than 27 per cent,” said Ralph Sacco of the University of Miami. “But we know there is still much to be done in improving the lives of heart disease and stroke patients – and more importantly, in preventing these devastating diseases in the first place. Scientific research will help us lead the way,” said Sacco.
The highlights of the top ten advances in cardiovascular research in 2010:
1. Tailoring treatment for people with diabetes to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease
New research from the ACCORD Study Group offered insight into specific treatments that can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The first study found that aggressive blood pressure control does not reduce CVD risk in people with type 2 diabetes at high risk for CVD. In a second study, a combination therapy with a statin plus a fibrate was no better at reducing risk than a statin alone in patients with type 2 diabetes at high risk for CVD.
2. New advances for patients who aren't candidates for conventional valve surgery
Two new studies have supported evidence that Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) can improve symptoms and outcomes – including quality of life – even over the course of several years. While there are some risks associated with TAVI, including strokes and other major cardiovascular events, the catheter-based procedure offers significant progress in this area.
3. Improving the way we reverse sudden cardiac arrest
Significant studies reported that chest compression only, or ''Hands Only CPR'' for adults by bystander lay rescuers improves survival outcome. Public awareness campaigns resulted in increased use of hands only CPR, as well as improved survival rates. While the new procedure appeared successful in adults, it is important to note that using conventional chest compressions with rescue breathing is still important for children stricken with sudden cardiac arrest.
4. More options for reducing stroke risk in atrial fibrillation
For the first time in more than 20 years there are viable alternatives to the primary prevention of stroke for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). Warfarin (Coumadin) has long been the standard anti-clotting drug used to reduce the risk of stroke for these patients. But it carries its own complications from bleeding, and managing the dose requires regular blood tests, making it difficult to manage for both patients and doctors. Now, several new drugs have been found to work as well as warfarin – and are simpler for patients to take – offering an important advance in this field.
5. Adjusting pacing therapies can improve outcomes for heart failure patients
New studies showed that adding additional resynchronization pacing to ICD therapy could lead to improved outcomes in an expanded group of heart failure patients. In addition, new types of ICDs (defibrillators without leads, for example) can offer options that reduce some of the risks associated with traditional devices.
6. Hopeful new procedure for infants with congenital heart disease
The Pediatric Heart Network's randomized trial of Norwood shunt types in infants with single-ventricle lesions showed that the type of shunt used makes a difference in outcomes. Better transplantation-free survival at 12 months is a possibility with this new understanding of the better shunt choice for these patients. This was the first large-scale randomized trial in congenital heart surgery, offering an approach that should provide answers to other questions in the future.
7. Finding the right anti-clotting (anti-platelet) therapy
New research from the PLATO investigators has found that ticagrelor may improve outcomes and reduce adverse events better than the current standard, clopidogrel. The CURRENT-OASIS 7 Trial is exploring the optimal dosing of clopidogrel and aspirin in patient undergoing invasive surgery. These studies will help providers better understand the situations where new choices and dosages may improve results for the patient.
8. Basic science findings offer insight into future progress
Several studies this year brought the future of medicine closer to the present with new insight into emerging technologies. Findings from stem cell therapy have shown improved quality of life and survival in several early studies of patients with chronic heart failure and support the development of future cell-based therapeutics. A large animal study defined the basic mechanisms for heart muscle regeneration initiated by specific types of stem cells. The results demonstrated that these stem cells repair scarred myocardium through promotion of the generation of new heart muscle and blood vessel).
9. Using science to support healthy lifestyle behaviours
New science examining lifestyle behaviours in adults and children, with particular emphasis on physical activity and consumption pattern, show that such conditions as obesity and hypertension are positively influenced by a change in diet with decreasing sodium levels. Results from the school setting suggest that the earlier one starts to adopt healthy behaviours the better the effect on health outcomes.
10. Get With The Guidelines participation eliminates disparity gaps in care
Racial and ethnic disparities have been found in the quality of care delivered to patients with cardiovascular disease and achieving equity and addressing disparities has implications for quality, cost, risk management, and community benefit. These findings are the first to show that participating in a quality improvement program, such as Get With The Guidelines-Coronary Artery Disease, can eliminate racial and ethnic disparities of care while increasing the overall use of evidence-based care for heart attack patients.
Throughout the project, the families received expert guidance from dietitians and were asked to provide blood and urine samples.
Diogenes: The five diet types
The design comprised the following five diet types:
- A low-protein diet (13% of energy consumed) with a high glycemic index (GI)*
- A low-protein, low-GI diet
- A high-protein (25% of energy consumed), low-GI diet
- A high-protein, high-GI diet
- A control group which followed the current dietary recommendations without special instructions regarding glycemic index levels
A high-protein, low-GI diet works best
A total of 938 overweight adults with a mean body mass index (BMI) of 34 kg/sq m were initially placed on an 800-kcal-per-day diet for eight weeks before the actual diet intervention was initiated. A total of 773 adult participants completed this initial weight-loss phase and were then randomly assigned to one of five different diet types, where 548 participants completed the six-month diet intervention (completion rate of 71%).
Fewer participants in the high-protein, low-GI groups dropped out of the project than in the low-protein, high-GI group (26.4% and 25.6%, respectively, vs. 37.4%; P = 0.02 and P = 0.01 for the two comparisons, respectively). The initial weight loss on the 800-kcal diet was an average of 11.0 kg.
The average weight regain among all participants was 0.5 kg, but among the participants who completed the study, those in the low-protein/high-GI group showed the poorest results with a significant weight gain of 1.67 kg. The weight regain was 0.93 kg less for participants on a high-protein diet than for those on a low-protein diet and 0.95 kg less in the groups on a low-GI diet compared to those on a high-GI diet.
The children's study
The results of the children's study have been published in a separate article in Pediatrics. In the families, there were 827 children who only participated in the diet intervention. Thus, they were never required to go on a diet or count calories – they simply followed the same diet as their parents. Approx. 45% of the children in these families were overweight. The results of the children's study were remarkable: In the group of children who maintained a high-protein, low-GI diet the prevalence of overweight dropped spontaneously from approx. 46% to 39% – a decrease of approx. 15%.
Proteins and low-GI foods ad libitum – the way ahead
The Diogenes study shows that the current dietary recommendations are not optimal for preventing weight gain among overweight people. A diet consisting of a slightly higher protein content and low-GI foods ad libitum appears to be easier to observe and has been documented to ensure that overweight people who have lost weight maintain their weight loss. Furthermore, the diet results in a spontaneous drop in the prevalence of overweight among their children.
Citation: Thomas Meinert Larsen, Ph.D., Stine-Mathilde Dalskov, M.Sc., Marleen van Baak, Ph.D., Susan A. Jebb, Ph.D., Angeliki Papadaki, Ph.D., Andreas F.H. Pfeiffer, M.D., J. Alfredo Martinez, Ph.D., Teodora Handjieva-Darlenska, M.D., Ph.D., Marie Kunešová, M.D., Ph.D., Mats Pihlsgård, Ph.D., Steen Stender, M.D., Ph.D., Claus Holst, Ph.D., Wim H.M. Saris, M.D., Ph.D., and Arne Astrup, M.D., Dr.Med.Sc. for the Diet, Obesity, and Genes (Diogenes) Project, 'Diets with High or Low Protein Content and Glycemic Index for Weight-Loss Maintenance', N Engl J Med 2010; 363:2102-2113 November 25, 2010
An Accredited Practising Dietitian is a health professional who is a food and nutrition expert. Dietitians complete a university course in order to be able to understand your medical/surgical condition and nutritional needs and adapt these into practical dietary advice.
Your first appointment is likely to take 45 – 60 minutes and sometimes longer. You need to bring the following to your appointment:
- Your referral letter or EPC (Medicare form) from your GP (if you were referred)
- Your food record / diary if you have been asked to keep one.
- A list of medications.
- Dietary advice previously given.
- Blood sugar records, if applicable.
- Test results, if applicable.
You can bring a friend, relative or carer to the appointment if you find this helpful.
At the appointment, Nastaran will:
- Introduce herself and welcome you.
- Discuss the reason you have been referred.
- Ask you questions about the types of food you eat, how you cook your foods and when you eat.
- Ask to measure your height and weight.
- Agree the changes you may wish to make, to meet your individual needs.
- Provide you with written information.
Your doctor will be informed of any dietary treatment recommended (if your were referred).
If Nastaran needs to see you again, she will agree this with you and explain how the followup
appointment is made and how long this will take. Generally followup appointments are 20-30 minutes long.
When it comes to buying fruits and vegetables, many factors play a role in which types consumers choose, including nutritional value. Are there significant differences among fresh, frozen, canned or dried? The American Dietetic Association says no matter what form they take, fruits and vegetables are good-for-you foods that can be enjoyed at any time.