Increasing the consumption of fatty fish such as salmon in your diet raises the number of large HDL lipoprotein (good cholesterol), according to a study done at the University of Eastern Finland.

baked salmon

People who ate fish at least 3 to 4 times a week had more large LDL molecules in their blood than people who were less frequent fish eaters. Large HDL molecules are believed to protect against heart disease.

Adding fish to your diet has been known to be beneficial for health for a long time now; nevertheless, it is still not known how fats and other useful nutrients that are found in fish work in our bodies. This new study done at the university provides new information on how adding fish to the diet affects the size and lipid concentrations of lipoproteins which carries blood into the body. The studied participants increased their fatty fish consumption in particular.

The researchers noticed that higher consumption of fish raised the number of large HDL molecules and lipids found in them. Population-based studies have shown that HDL cholesterol (the good guys) and large HDL molecules are what’s needed to sweep extra cholesterol off of the walls of the arteries. Large HDL molecules have been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, while small HDL molecules may have adverse effects.

Positive changes in lipid metabolism were also witnessed in those who consumed a great deal of fish (at least 3-4 times a week). The participants in the study ate fatty fish that included salmon, rainbow trout, and herring. Fish were not cooked with added butter or cream. The study doesn’t however tell us whether those who consumed low-fat fish such as zander and perch produced similar results as these fishes may also have other health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, which was witnessed in an earlier study carried out at the university.

Advanced metabolomics was used in the study, allowing for a comprehensive analysis of lipoprotein particles. The analysis was done at UEF’s NMR Metabolics Laboratory. Normally, cholesterol is split up into “bad” LDL cholesterol and “good” HDL cholesterol, but matabolomics allowed for the examination of a total of 14 different molecule classes.  “Don’t be fooled into thinking that if normal lipid levels are OK, there is no need to mention diet, as things are a lot more complex than that. The fat of vegetables and fish are foods that you want to include in your diet in any case,” says researcher Maria Lankinen.

Also, the researchers stress that dietary changes in the treatment of high LDL cholesterol is important. The dietary changes would be to reduce the consumption of red meat and to increase the consumption of fish and other sea foods. More information of the health benefits of fish will be available in the future from a project carried out at UEF Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition.

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