Health benefit of fatty fish – Fat HDL?

fish good source of omega-3 for prediabetes dietFish is well known for its health benefits. The exact nature of the benefits of eating fatty fish are continuing to be determined. Here are two: better quality HDL and a slimmer waistline.

HDL stands for “high density lipoprotein.”  Given that fat does not dissolve in your water-based blood, lipoproteins are used to move various types of fat around your body through your bloodstream. HDL is commonly referred to as the “good cholesterol,” but there are different “grades” of HDL.
You not only want good HDL levels, but you want good quality HDL. It appears one benefit of fish, fatty fish in particular, is that it promotes HDL quality by increasing its diameter – making it “fatter” – among other things.

A recent study looking at 131 Finnish men and women having the mildly elevated blood sugar levels of prediabetes-metabolic syndrome were randomly assigned to eat one of three diets:

1.        A “healthy diet” consisting of low glycemic index whole grains, fatty fish three times per week, and three portions of bilberries per day.
2.        A  second diet of low glycemic index whole grains and their usual diet without the fish and bilberries.
3.        A third control diet of refined-wheat breads as cereal products as part of their usual diet.

Reasearchers found eating a diet rich in fatty fish appeared to change the quality of HDL particles found in the blood.

Although blood levels of the different “types of cholesterol” did not change among the different diets, people who ate the “healthy diet” rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fatty fish had better HDL with an:

  • increased concentration of large HDL-cholesterol particles
  • increase in the average diameter of HDL particles
  • increase in the concentrations of large HDL lipid components

The authors concluded,

These changes may be related to known protective functions of HDL such as reverse cholesterol transport and could partly explain the known protective effects of fish consumption against atherosclerosis.”

HDL, or high density lipoprotein, brings cholesterol from all over your body back to your liver. This is what the authors mean by “reverse cholesterol transport.” Cholesterol is initially taken from your liver to tissues all over your body. Then, what is not used, is moved back to the liver by HDL. In other words cholesterol’s movement is “reversed” by HDL.

Why did the researchers feel the need to include bilberries? Confounding variable? The answer is not apparent in the paper. I suspect the answer will come out in a future research paper looking at the impact of bilberry consumption among men and women having the impaired blood sugar control of prediabetes-metabolic syndrome.

fish health benefits

How to get a teenage girl to eat fish

Tell her she’ll maintain a slimmer waistline as she grows…read on.

Researchers recently published their evaluation of fish intake in Asian and white female adolescents to determine whether eating fish was associated with changes in body fatness and body fat distribution in this group of youngsters.

They found greater fish intake corresponded to smaller changes in waist circumference when controlling for multiple variables.

But not after adjusting for “parental parameters” – you do not need to tell her that part.  🙂

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About Robert Creighton

Dr. Creighton is a podiatrist and foot surgeon with over 26 years in podiatric practice treating thousands of patients afflicted with the physiological, physical, and psychological side effects and complications of diabetes and pre-diabetes metabolic syndrome. He believes these disorders present a pressing public health concern that need to be more actively addressed in a multidisciplinary way. Dr. Creighton graduated from what is now the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine after receiving his undergraduate degree in Biology. He is certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery, a member of the American Public Health Association, an American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and a Member of the American Nutrition Association.


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