A study appearing in the American journal of clinical nutrition has claimed that fish consumption is linked to an improvement in the electrical properties of heart cells. This backs up earlier research claims that a diet rich in omega 3 (the main good fat found in fish) may reduce the risk of heart attacks and fatal abnormal rhythms.

How does it stack up?

The new study carried out at the University of Athens looked at the heart?s electrical cycle and found that those individuals studied who consumed over 300 grams of fish per week had lower QT scores. Lower QT scores indicate a lower resting heart rate and are seen as a significant health benefit as higher resting heart rates are linked with an increased risk of heart related sudden death. A similar study conducted at Harvard medical school concluded heart health benefits from omega 3 too.

Layman low down

It is believed that the benefits of omega 3 are linked to the oils blocking excessive sodium and calcium currents in the heart, which have been known to cause dangerous and erratic changes in heart rhythm. Simply, these good fats are stored in the cell membranes of the heart and exert a protective effect.

How much oily fish will benefit your heart?

Recommendations for omega 3 intakes are not provided on general recommended intake lists. A panel of experts, however, sponsored by the National institute of health have come up with some sensible recommendations that fall in line with the current research in this area. They suggest that two per cent of total calories come from omega-3 fats. To meet these recommendations a person consuming 2000 calories per day should eat sufficient omega 3 rich foods to provide at least four grams of omega-3 fatty acids.

Where can you get Omega 3?

Fish can provide a major contribution of omega 3, with good sources including salmon, mackerel, herring, trout and sardines. Health concerns over mercury and dioxin levels in fish lead some, however, to limit their fish intake to the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations of two servings of fish a week.

Complementing your diet by sprinkling flaxseed, sunflower and pumpkinseeds on your foods, including nuts as a snack and cooking with soybeans will increase the omega 3 content of your diet. Tofu and many vegetables also supply small amounts of omega 3, for example, steamed broccoli contributes 0.2g of omega 3 in a typical cup size serving, brussel sprouts contribute just under 0.3g, and cauliflower provides just over 0.2g.

Getting your vegetables in every day therefore will not only supply plenty of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients necessary for good health, but will also help you to make up your omega 3 requirement. If you are still worried you are falling short, omega 3 fats are available in essential fatty acid supplements (EFAs), which are available from health food shops and supermarkets.