New Study Finds Fish Does Not Protect the Heart

From the PCRM online newsletter

People who believe a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids from fish is cardioprotective may soon have a change of heart. A new study in the May issue of the American Journal of Cardiology suggests that fish consumption does not improve heart health or prevent coronary heart disease.

The study found that the heart benefits so often associated with a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids from fish were more likely the result of people regularly consuming fish also having healthier dietary patterns overall. The study, which is based on analysis of the Diabetic Control and Complications Trial database, tracked nutritional data for 1,441 Americans over nine years.

Researchers found that participants consuming the most omega-3 fatty acids from fish generally consume less saturated fat and more dietary fiber than their red-meat-eating counterparts. People who regularly eat fish are also more likely to smoke less and exercise more. Meanwhile, participants eating less fish but greater quantities of other meats consume more overall saturated fat and less fiber. This finding suggests that improved heart health, often attributed to fish consumption, actually results from a generally healthier dietary pattern rather than the fish itself.

“Fish is not a boon for good health as consumers are often led to believe,” says study coauthor Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D., a senior nutrition scientist with PCRM and assistant professor of health and wellness at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. “Fish has a questionable role in heart-disease prevention and contains surprisingly high levels of mercury and other toxins, as well as fat and cholesterol, making it a poor dietary choice.”

Along with Dr. Lanou, retired physician David Cundiff, M.D., and Claudio Nigg, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, analyzed the dataset and authored the American Journal of Cardiology study.