TUESDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Eating fish, particularly oily fish, a couple of times a week may help protect you against stroke, but fish oil supplements don't have the same effect, a new study finds.
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Researchers analyzed the results of 38 previous studies to examine the association between fish consumption and the risk of stroke or mini-stroke (know to doctors as transient ischemic attack). The studies included nearly 800,000 people in 15 countries.
After adjusting for several risk factors, the researchers concluded that people who ate two to four servings of oily fish per week had a 6 percent lower risk of stroke or mini-stroke than those who ate one or less servings per week. People who ate five or more servings per week had a 12 percent lower risk.
Two servings per week of any fish was associated with a 4 percent reduced risk. However, fish oil supplements did not reduce the risk of stroke or mini-stroke, according to a team led by Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury, of the University of Cambridge, in England.
The study was published online Oct. 30 in the BMJ.
Prior research has linked regular consumption of fish with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and current guidelines recommend eating at least two portions of fish a week, preferably an oily fish such as mackerel or sardines. This study shows that eating fish can also reduce the risk of stroke, according to a journal news release.
There are a number of possible reasons why eating fish can benefit vascular health, the study authors said. It may be due to interactions between a wide range of nutrients, such as vitamins and essential amino acids, commonly found in fish.
Or it may be that eating more fish leads people to eat less red meat and other foods that harm vascular health, or that higher fish consumption may be an indicator of a generally healthier diet or greater wealth, both of which are associated with better vascular health.
While the study found an association between increased fish intake and lowered stroke risk, it could not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Oct. 30, 2012