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Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
Date:7/29/2008

anese men living in Japan had far higher rates of smoking -- 47 percent -- and smoking is one of the most significant heart disease risk factors.

But they had significantly less coronary artery calcifications and less build-up in their carotid arteries.

The levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood were 9.2 percent for men living in Japan, 3.9 percent for white men, and 4.8 percent for Japanese-American men. Yet, Japanese-American men had more coronary artery calcifications and more build-up in their carotid arteries than the white men and the men in Japan.

"Fish is an important factor in keeping the Japanese healthy," said the author of an accompanying editorial, William Harris, director of the Metabolism and Nutrition Research Center, Sanford Research/USD, in Sioux Falls, S.D.

"The combination of increased fish oil and a low saturated fat diet is probably the best way to lower heart disease risk. Eskimos have a diet high in omega-3s, but also high in saturated fat, and they don't have the same low levels of heart disease," he added.

Harris said what's important is to consume fish or fish oil on an ongoing basis. "A month of supplements won't get you there," he said. But, if you don't like fish, he said that fish oil supplements can also improve your health, but he suggested that you read the supplement label and make sure that each capsule contains one gram of omega-3s. And, he said, they don't have to be expensive to be effective.

If you don't have heart disease, he said, two grams a day "is more than adequate." And, if you like fish, that's even better.

"Choose oily fish, not fried fish, but fish that naturally contain omega-3s, like salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, herring and mackerel, and you need to eat about two 4-ounce servings a week," Harris added.

More information

To learn more about fish, omega-3s and heart health, visit the

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