Postmenopausal women who regularly eat broiled or baked fish have a 30% lower risk of heart failure compared to women who very rarely or never consume broiled/baked fish, while regular eaters of fried fish have a higher risk, researchers revealed in the journal Circulation – Heart Failure


The authors explained that certain ingredients found in fish, such as fatty acids, EPA, DHA and ALA were found in previous studies to reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular disease by decreasing inflammation, improving blood pressure, cardiac and blood vessel function, and resisting oxidative stress.

Dark fish, also known as blue fish or oily fish provide much greater benefits than tuna or white fish. Examples of dark fish include salmon, sardines, mackerel and bluefish. Examples of white fish include cod, snapper and sole.

Those regularly eating fried fish, even if it is only once a week, had a much higher chance of developing heart failure.

Senior author Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., said:

“Not all fish are equal, and how you prepare it really matters. When you fry fish, you not only lose a lot of the benefits, you likely add some things related to the cooking process that are harmful.”

Frying fish raises the TFA (trans fatty acid) content of the food. TFA has been linked to a greater heart disease risk, the authors wrote. They stressed that their study did not find such a link.

Lloyd-Jones and colleagues gathered self-reported information from 84,493 women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study – they were all postmenopausal.

The women were divided into the type of fish they ate, and how often they ate fish. They defined two types of fish consumption: Baked/broiled or fried.

Their data analysis covered the period 1991-2008. 1,858 cases of heart failure were recorded over an average 10-year follow up.

85% of the women were Caucasian, 7% African-American and 3% Hispanic. At baseline their average age was 63 years.

The baked/broiled fish consumers were healthier, younger than the fried-fish eaters. They were also physically fitter, did more exercise, had a higher educational level, had much lower smoking rates, as well as lower rates of hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

Those in the baked/broiled fish group also tended to consume more fruit and vegetables, less saturated and trans fatty acids, and consumed better quality fats than the fried fish group participants.

The women in the fried fish group consumed more calories each day, had a larger BMI (body mass index), and consumed less fiber than those in the baked/broiled fish group.

The authors explained that the exact relationship between omega-3 fatty acid consumption and heart failure risk had been unclear. Their aim was also to clarify the link between fish and heart failure rate in postmenopausal women.

Lloyd-Jones said:

“Baking or broiling fish and eating it frequently seem to be part of a dietary pattern that is very beneficial for a number of things. In this case, we demonstrated that it’s associated with heart failure prevention. This suggests that fish is a very good source of lean protein that we ought to be increasing as a proportion of our diet and decreasing foods that contain less healthy saturated and trans fats.”

He added that their study findings are consistent with previous ones done in America and Sweden, “but the new study adds the interesting results on darker fish. They also suggest that baked/broiled fish is associated with reduced risk of heart failure through mechanisms other than reducing risk for a heart attack, a precursor to heart failure in some people.”

Approximately 5.7 milling people in the USA are affected by heart failure. Although heart failure patients have a functioning heart, it cannot pump blood properly around the body. Heart failure, which is usually treated with medication, lifestyle changes and/or surgery, is typically caused by smoking, hypertension, being physically inactive, not eating properly, being overweight, and/or diabetes.

“Fish Intake and the Risk of Incident Heart Failure: The Women’s Health Initiative”
Rashad J. Belin, Philip Greenland, Lisa Martin, Albert Oberman, Lesley Tinker, Jennifer Robinson, Joseph Larson, Linda Van Horn and Donald Lloyd-Jones
Circulation Heart Failure DOI: CIRCHEARTFAILURE.10.1161/110.960450

Written by Christian Nordqvist