Japanese Diet Rich in Omega-3s Leads to a Healthy Heart
A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that the
Japanese diet, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish, protects against heart disease.
The study compared middle-aged white men and Japanese-American men living in the United
States to Japanese men living in Japan, finding that Japanese men had twice the blood levels of
omega-3 fatty acids.
According to earlier studies, Japanese men had significantly less cholesterol build-up in their
arteries despite similar blood cholesterol and blood pressure readings, similar rates of diabetes,
and much higher rates of cigarette smoking as white men living in the United States. However,
it was unclear whether their genes, their fish-rich diet, or another unknown factor was protecting
Japanese men from clogged arteries. As one of the researchers, Akira Sekikawa, M.D., Ph.D.,
states, "The death rate from coronary heart disease in Japan has always been puzzlingly low."
To solve this mystery, the researchers decided to conduct another study. The results of this study
suggest that very low rates of coronary heart disease among Japanese men living in Japan may be
due to a lifetime of high fish consumption. In contrast to typical Americans who eat fish perhaps
twice a week, Japanese people eat 3 ounces of fish daily on average. This includes oily fish such
as salmon, tuna and sardines.
Interestingly, the study found that the total level of fatty acids was similar in the three groups,
but the percentage of fish-based omega-3 fatty acids was two-fold higher in Japanese men living
in Japan than white men and Japanese-American men living in the United States. The study also
demonstrated that Japanese men have equally bad or worse cardiovascular risk profiles as
Americans. The study concludes that traditional risk factors lead to traditional amounts of
artery-clogging plaque, but a life-long diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids protects against clogged
arteries and decreases the chances of coronary heart disease.
Source: ScienceDaily, July 29, 2008