"We may not know the other components . . . but that's why eating fish is better than taking a supplement," he said. "You really need to eat the food. This is clearly an important part of a healthy dietary eating pattern."
Lloyd-Jones' study was based on data from 84,493 women aged 50 to 79 from the Women's Health Initiative study. The vast majority of participants were white (85 percent), while 7 percent were black and 3 percent were Hispanic.
The main limitation of the study was its observational nature and the self-reported eating habits of participants, said Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.
"What we don't know is have these women been eating five servings of baked and broiled fish all of their lives, or is this something they started in their fifties?" Sandon said. "They may also have a more active lifestyle and eat less saturated fat. So there are a lot of differences, probably, in overall nutrition intake."
Indeed, the study indicated that participants whose diets included more baked and broiled fish tended to be healthier and younger than peers who ate fried fish, as well as more physically active and fit. They were also more educated, less likely to smoke and had fewer incidences of diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
"Certainly it's promising that [baked and broiled fish] essentially had a protective effect," Sandon said. "That goes along with what we know in other studies - something about fish is good for us. Something about unfried fish is good for us as well."
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on heart failure.
SOURCES: Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., preventive cardiologist, c
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