Eating two portions of oily fish a week could help ward off a stroke, but fish oil supplements do not have the same effect, according to a new study.
Mackerel is an example of oily fish
The Food Standards Agency already says eating oily fish reduces the risk of death from heart disease, because they are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Examples of oily fish include salmon, trout and mackerel, but these only count when they are canned, fresh or frozen.
Now, an international team of researchers have found that eating two portions of oily fish a week could also help ward off a stroke or mini-stroke.
The researchers examined 38 studies involving almost 800,000 people across 15 countries. The studies looked at people who had answered questionnaires on their intake of oily fish and supplements, and measured how much omega-3 fatty acids they had in their blood.
During the studies a total of 34,817 strokes and mini strokes were recorded. Writing on bmj.com, the researchers found that the participants eating two to four servings of oily fish a week had a 6% lower risk of stroke compared with those who consumed one portion or less every week.
However, there was no associated reduced risk with fish oil supplements.
Food Standards Agency recommends everyone eats at least two 140g portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish. Dr Peter Coleman, deputy director of research at the Stroke Association, said:
"This research shows that it could also help to protect us against stroke. However, it's interesting to see that taking fish oil supplements doesn't have the same beneficial effect.
"People who eat lots of fish may have healthier diets in general which could go some way to explain the results. However, a lot more research is needed in this area before we decide to eat fish every day of the week.
"Everyone can reduce their risk of stroke by exercising regularly, consuming a healthy, balanced diet and getting your blood pressure checked."
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