Fish diet 'cuts risk of heart attacks'

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Just one serving a week of fatty fish such as fresh salmon, tuna or cod, can reduce the risk of cardiac arrest by up to 70 per cent, according to American research.

Scientists from the University of Washington in Seattle have assessed the protective benefits to the heart of a type of fatty acid, which is found primarily in seafood, by analysing the diets of 827 people aged 24 to 74.

They found that an intake of 5.5 grams per month of the n-3 fatty acids, as they are known, was associated with a 50 per cent reduction in the risk of cardiac arrest - changes in the rhythm of the heart beat which can result in a heart attack.

An 84g (3oz) serving of cooked fresh salmon contains 1.49g of the fatty acid, and four servings a month would be enough to reap the benefits for the heart, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. One serving of cod contains 0.23g of n-3 fatty acids, and one serving of albacore tuna contains 0.74g.

Dr David Siscovick and his team in Seattle also analysed the level of the n-3 fatty acids in the blood, where they are found in blood cell membranes. They are believed to reduce the clumping of blood cells, and the risk of heart spasms. The researchers found that small increases in the percentage of the fatty acids substantially lowered the risk of a heart attack.

The report says ". . . a red blood cell n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid level of 4.3 per cent of total fatty acids was associated with a 50 per cent reduction in the risk of primary cardiac arrest", while a level of 5 per cent was associated with a 70 per cent reduction.

A diet rich in seafood is associated with good health. In Europe, Spanish adults eat the most fish - between 60-90g a day - and deaths from heart disease for men are three times fewer than in England where men eat under 40g of fish a day.