Carrying Extra Weight? Eating This Type of Fish May Offer Protection

Here’s one more reason to put fatty fish on your menu tonight.

Grilled salmon with lime and pepper.

Medically reviewed in June 2021

Updated on March 4, 2022

If you’re carrying extra weight, eating fish could help you guard against some of the health risks that can come with those pounds.

Researchers who examined an Indigenous community in Alaska were surprised to find that some of the overweight and obese people in the group didn't have the high, unhealthy levels of triglycerides that usually come with being large. This may be due to the fatty fish they were enjoying as part of their traditional diet.

The connection between fat and fish
Fatty fish, like salmon, is a rich source of two omega-3 fatty acids that have an established reputation for promoting heart health. Called docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), these two types of fat appeared to have a protective effect in the overweight and obese Yup'ik adults observed in the 2011 study, which was published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The Yup'ik people, a group of Alaska Natives, tend to consume about 20 times more omega-3 fatty acids from fish than do Americans who live outside Alaska. And while the Alaskan community also has obesity rates similar to the rest of the United States, the heavy men and women in the Yup’ik group had relatively healthy levels of triglycerides—so long as their DHA and EPA intake was up. That led researchers to suspect that eating plenty of fatty fish may help counteract some of the health problems associated with being big.

Hidden heart-helpers
Not only did the Yup’ik people who ate generous amounts of fish have lower triglycerides, they also had lower levels of C-reactive protein—an inflammatory marker that has been linked to both diabetes and heart disease risk.

Plenty of other studies have linked higher DHA and EPA intakes to heart health, from lower triglyceride and C-reactive protein levels to higher levels of HDL (aka “good” cholesterol). But this was one of the first to suggest that the fats in fish may help counteract some of the damage often seen in people who are above their ideal body weight.

Try adding fatty fish like salmon to your meal tonight!

Article sources open article sources

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Study of Yup'ik Eskimos suggests high consumption of omega-3 fats reduces risk of obesity-related disease. March 24, 2011.
Makhoul Z, Kristal AR, Gulati R, et al. Associations of obesity with triglycerides and C-reactive protein are attenuated in adults with high red blood cell eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011;65(7):808-817.

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