Women with High Intakes of Seafood Omega-3s May Have Fewer Strokes

There is considerable evidence that eating fish or the long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3s) they contain is associated with a lower risk of stroke in women. Not all research studies agree, however, and some reports suggest that men who consume fatty fish regularly may also have a lower risk of stroke. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and is the most common cause of long-term disability. It occurs more frequently in people who smoke or have high blood pressure. The most common type of stroke in western populations is the thrombotic type, in which a blood clot or severe narrowing of a cerebral artery blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to a part of the brain. Previous evidence from a very large study in Swedish women suggested that women above the age of 49 who ate more than 3 servings of lean fish per week had a 33% lower chance of developing a stroke compared with women who ate little or no fish. In a new report from this study, the investigators wondered if the consumption of fatty fish or seafood omega-3s were linked to a lower risk of stroke. They compared the occurrence of stroke in women in the highest fifth of participants in terms of their fat, cholesterol and fatty acid intakes with participants in the lowest fifth. Women with the highest intakes of seafood omega-3s had a 16% lower risk of all types of stroke compared with women in the lowest fifth of intake. Women who ate the most fish consumed an average of 730 mg per day of seafood omega-3s, 5 times more than the 144 mg per day consumed by women in the lowest group. The risk of thrombotic stroke was also 17% lower among the highest fish-eaters, but this estimate did not quite achieve statistical significance. High cholesterol intakes were linked to a 20% greater chance of stroke compared with low intakes. These findings confirm several previous reports that seafood and seafood omega-3s are associated with a lower risk of stroke, especially in women. Given the many other health advantages associated with eating fatty fish regularly, from cardiovascular to visual and perhaps cognitive benefits, making seafood meals a regular habit may pay healthy dividends.