Researchers in Finland have found that eating salmon and other oily fish three or four times a week positively changes HDL, the “good” cholesterol that protects against heart disease. Eating lots of oily fish is associated with increased numbers of larger-sized HDL particles. That’s a desirable change, since large HDL particles are the most effective at sweeping up deposits of cholesterol that build up on artery walls and raise the risk of heart attack. The study participants ate fatty fish such as salmon, rainbow trout and herring prepared without butter or cream. The study didn’t reveal whether participants who ate low-fat fish had similar benefits, but the researchers noted that other studies have suggested that eating low-fat fish can help control blood pressure.

My take? This study gives us new insight into how eating oily fish affects HDL and benefits health, and it confirms that to get those benefits you have to eat fish frequently – three or four times a week. Epidemiology shows us that populations eating fish regularly have increased longevity and experience less chronic disease than populations that do not include fish as part of their traditional diets. Fish provides high-quality protein without the saturated fat present in meat and poultry. Wild salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and bluefish are all rich in the omega-3 fatty acids needed for optimum health.

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Copyright Andrew Weil, MD.