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Establishing link between omega-3 fatty acids in fish and reduction in coronary heart disease by demonstrating how a diet rich in fish oil lowers blood triglycerides and improves elasticity of large arteries.

The Institute’s research into fish oil began soon after reports emerged of Inuits in Greenland having minimal coronary disease, probably due to their omega-3 rich marine foods.

Initially showing the marked triglyceride lowering effect of fish oil (high blood triglyceride levels are now recognised as a major risk for heart attack), Baker Institute researchers investigated possible mechanisms in clinical studies. They found that fish oil lowered the production of both triglycerides and of the protein apoB, a building block of lipoproteins, which transport fats in the blood (Nestel, P et al. J Clin Invest 1984).

The importance of specific fish oil fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in cardiovascular health were also shown at the Baker Institute. These compounds improve elasticity of large arteries and reduce arterial stiffness — a major factor causing hypertension (Nestel, P et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2002).

On the basis of the recognised health improvements brought about by long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, recommendations have been made to increase their intake, primarily through the consumption of fish, especially oily fish.

Paul Nestel
Paul Nestel and Liz Faehse of the Baker Institute’s Cardiovascular Metabolism and Nutrition Research Unit
Source: Monash University Archives 1984

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