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Cardiovascular diseases are still the number one cause of death in Germany. Nutrition is a factor that can influence these diseases. In particular, n-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. What are the health benefits of eating fish that is rich in long-chain n-3 fatty acids? Reason for the DGE to take a closer look at the food.
In a comprehensive literature review, she analyzed more than 50 studies on fish consumption and their influence on diet-related diseases and came to the conclusion that regular fish consumption - especially of fish rich in fat - can reduce the risk of fatal heart attacks, ischemic stroke and lipid metabolism disorders. The latter is due to the fact that regular fish consumption reduces the triglyceride concentration in the blood and increases the HDL cholesterol concentration.
The influence on the risk of high blood pressure is currently not clear. This requires further studies to demonstrate possible effects. The DGE recommends one to two servings of fish per week, including 70 g of high-fat sea fish such as salmon, mackerel or herring.
The long-chain n-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are probably responsible for these positive effects. The results of the evidence-based DGE guideline "Fat intake and prevention of selected diet-related diseases" already showed that EPA and DHA reduce the triglyceride concentration in the blood with convincing evidence and the risk of coronary heart disease with probable evidence. However, the beneficial influence on the triglyceride concentration in the blood could only be observed with an intake of n-3 fatty acids, which cannot be achieved with food. With its current specialist information "Fish consumption and prevention of selected nutritional diseases", the DGE shows the direct connection between a food and the risk-reducing effect on nutritional diseases.
Fish is not just fish: also choose fatty fish
Fish species such as cod, saithe, hake, plaice or redfish are low-fat fish. They deliver between 280 mg and 840 mg EPA and DHA per 100 g fish. In contrast, salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in long-chain n-3 fatty acids. 100 g herring provides almost 3,000 mg EPA and DHA. Freshwater fish such as trout or carp have comparable levels of n-3 fatty acids to low-fat saltwater fish. Tuna is also a good supplier of long chain n-3 fatty acids. However, like swordfish, cod, white fish, pike or hake - it can be contaminated with (methyl) mercury. When eating one or two servings a week, the health benefits outweigh the negative effects of a possible exposure to mercury and other pollutants. However, women who are pregnant and breastfeeding should limit their consumption of these fish species.
Fish once or twice a week
According to current data, 250 mg EPA and DHA per day are sufficient to prevent deaths caused by coronary artery disease. According to the DGE, this amount can be covered by one or two fish meals a week, depending on the type of fish selected. Regardless of whether it is low-fat or high-fat - in addition to the n-3 fatty acids that are important in terms of nutritional physiology, fish provides valuable, easily digestible protein, selenium and vitamin D. Sea fish are an important source of iodine.
In terms of sustainability, too, one or two servings a week are acceptable. These can e.g. B. each be divided into a portion of high-fat (70 g) and low-fat (150 g) fish. However, the Germans eat less. According to the National Consumption Study II, the average consumption of fish, fish products and shellfish (excluding dishes based on fish / shellfish) is 105 g per week for men and 91 g per week for women. 16% do not eat fish at all.
Sustainable fish - that's possible!
Overfishing is affecting more and more fish stocks. When buying fish, the DGE advises to pay attention to a recognized sustainable origin. A conscious selection can support sustainable and environmentally friendly fishing. Seals from various organizations and associations, such as the MSC seal, offer help with purchasing.
Long-chain n-3 fatty acids make fish something special
n-3 fatty acids are also found in nuts and oilseeds as well as oils made from them such as walnut oil, rapeseed oil or linseed oil; but not the long chain fatty acids EPA and DHA. These are found primarily in high-fat sea fish. Long-chain n-3 fatty acids in particular also play an important role in the growth and development of the brain. They influence the flow properties of the blood and thus prevent deposits in the blood vessels. In addition, they form important structural lipids in the body and influence muscle function as well as inflammatory and immune reactions. (pm)