The heart of the matter


A SEAFISH initiative to promote oily fish consumption has revealed that that two thirds (64%) of people across the UK do not consider the health of their hearts whilst making diet choices.

Seven in ten (69%) adults across the UK are unaware of the recommendation that they should eat two portions of fish each week and that one of those portions should be oily fish. This is reflected in other studies, which found that 80% of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) cases could have been prevented through a healthier lifestyle.

Despite this, Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) remains the UK’s biggest killer, accounting for more than 73,000 deaths each year.

Seafish has undertaken a survey as part of its ‘Superfishoil’ campaign, which aims to emphasise the benefits of a healthy diet that includes seafood. Fish is rich in omega-3, which helps to maintain a healthy heart through supporting normal blood pressure and blood levels of triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood). This reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The campaign is spearheaded by celebrity chef John Torode, who is hoping to help Seafish inspire people to choose delicious and nutritious seafood as a healthier option for meals and snacks, instead of other choices which are higher in saturated fat.

Encouragingly, amongst UK adults who do recognise the importance of eating the right foods to improve their heart health and blood pressure, almost two thirds (63%) acknowledge that fish is a great way to include omega-3 in their diets. This is supported by other studies which have shown that a dietary intake of one portion of oily fish per week has been associated with a 50% reduction in the risk of cardiac arrest.

John Torode said: “There’s a wide variety of delicious and affordable produce out there, from mackerel and kippers to sardines and crab, and seafood is so versatile – it can be used to make so many fantastic dishes!

“There are numerous health benefits associated with omega-3 rich seafood, including that it’s packed with vitamins and minerals and helps maintain a healthy heart and cholesterol.”

Juliette Kellow, registered dietitian and media nutrition consultant, is also backing the campaign. She said: “Research shows that not enough people are aware that they should be eating at least two portions of seafood per week, with one oily portion, and that this could come from a vast array of species including mackerel and sardines, to name but a few. Shellfish like crab and prawns are also good sources.

“The high omega-3 content that many fish carry has been linked to various health benefits, including helping the heart to work normally, maintaining normal blood pressure and blood triglyceride levels, contributing to normal brain development and being important for our eyesight and brain function. I’d encourage people to incorporate more oil-rich fish and seafood into their diet, it’s nutritious, versatile and affordable – perfect for everyone.”

Vicki Litherland, Heart Research UK lifestyle officer and nutritionist, said: “Coronary Heart Disease is the UK’s biggest killer but shockingly 80% of cases could be prevented through healthier lifestyles. What we eat impacts not only on the way we look and feel on the outside, but what’s happening inside our bodies too.

“Healthy lifestyle choices can help to promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduce risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and a host of other long-term conditions.

“A diet including Omega-3 rich seafood, combined with being active and not smoking, is a great way to look after your heart and have a healthier, happier and longer life.”

Professor Rainger from the Institute of Cardiovascular Science (ICVS), University of Birmingham, said: “There is strong evidence that eating fish twice a week over the long term provides protection against heart attack and stroke, although greater benefits are indicated with the consumption of up to 5 meals containing fish a week.

“The benefits of fish oil in preventing so called secondary events in patients who have already had a heart attack or stroke is less certain, and more evidence is required before we can draw firm conclusions about benefits in secondary prevention.”