Fish and other seafoods are a good source of nutrients. In particular, cold water fish contain high concentrations of long chain fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5 (n-3)) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6 (n-3)). These fatty acids are important because generally the typical Western diet is devoid in essential fatty acids and these fatty acids can feed into the essential fatty acid pathway, and in this way can satisfy important nutrient requirements in a population otherwise deficient in these nutrients. In addition, fish is a good source of protein, and certain minerals are supplied by seafood including high amounts of selenium in tuna. Generally, apart from coastal populations, seafood is not widely and regularly consumed by Western populations, but evidence suggests that increasing seafood consumption can provide health benefits, particular with regard to Western lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease. In particular long chain fatty acids from fish are cardioprotective.
In a recent study, researchers assessed the effects of lean seafood on the cardiovascular parameters of a number of healthy subjects. The subjects followed either a lean seafood diet or an equivalent control diet for 4 weeks each and had a washout period between each of the diets to prevent a cross over of effects from one to the other. The researchers made an attempt to balance the micronutrient concentrations, including the long chain fatty acid intake, by supplementing the non-seafood diet with cod liver oil. Therefore the protein content from the seafood was the main difference between the control and treatment diets, although the total protein content was similar. The results of the study showed that the lean seafood diet caused a reduction in fasting and postprandial triglyceride concentrations as measured from the chylomicron and very low density lipoprotein triglyceride concentrations, respectively. The size of the very low density particles was also reduced.
In addition, the high density lipoprotein cholesterol to total cholesterol ratio also increased in the subjects consuming the lean seafood diet. These changes were indicative of a protective effect of lean seafood on the cardiovascular risk of the subjects. Fish and other seafood may therefore produce some benefit to the consumer beyond the presence of their long chain fatty acid and total protein content. Other studies have shown benefits for fish and seafood consumption, but this is usually attributed to a particular micronutrient within the fish, such as the long chain fatty acids. These results suggest that other factors may exist within fish and seafood that provides a significant effect on health through changes in blood chemistry. However, the exact reason for these changes are not fully understood and this study could not answer that question. Seafood flesh or nutrients within the flesh therefore provides significant health effects and increasing consumption of seafood is recommended as part of a high quality diet.
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