Fish lovers rejoice! Researchers say they have discovered best type of fish to lower high cholesterol

Composite image of fish and high cholesterol

Salmon shown to lower 'bad' cholesterol levels

Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman

Published: 09/02/2024

- 13:14

The popular staple contains four compounds that bust the "bad" type of cholesterol, researchers say

High cholesterol levels can be stubborn but there is a surprisingly simple weapon at your disposal: salmon.

University of Colorado researchers believe they have discovered at least four compounds within the popular type of fish that reduce LDL cholesterol, otherwise known as the 'bad' type of cholesterol.

LDL cholesterol has gained notoriety by contributing to fatty buildups in arteries, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Now, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, showed that by eating salmon you can ingest at least 30 metabolites - substances produced during digestion or other chemical processes.

Salmon roasting on the grid

Salmon contains four metabolites that lower LDL levels, researchers claim

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Four of these metabolities have been linked to improved heart health by lowering LDL levels.

Best type to eat?

Salmon comes in many different forms. There five types of Pacific salmon and two types of Atlantic salmon.

Alaska sockeye salmon is thought to be the best owing to its Omega-3 content: it can provide up to 730 milligrams of Omega-3s per 3 oz serving.

Omega-3 fatty acids are the nutrients that support good heart health, and sockeye salmon is full of them.

More specifically, the high levels of Omega-3s found in sockeye salmon are thought to defend against coronary heart disease by decreasing blood vessel inflammation and supporting the overall vascular system.
However, it's worth noting that all types of salmon pack a high protein content

Additional benefits of eating salmon

As the British Heart Foundation explains, eating more oily fish, such as salmon, can also help you to cut down on red and processed meat.

Many red and processed meats are high in saturated fat, which can raise blood cholesterol levels if you eat too much of it.

What did the researchers found out?

To arrive their conclusion, researchers asked 41 participants aged 30-69 to eat a Mediterranean diet including a range of fish, low-fat meat, wholegrains and fruit and vegetables.

They then determined the health status of their cardiovascular system by analysing blood and conducting other tests. Tests were conducted before and after the diet.

Included in the diet was two servings of salmon a week for two five-week periods, with a month's break in between.

The participants were obese or overweight but none had any active metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Man skinning his salmon on a chopping board

Alaska sockeye salmon is thought to be the best owing to its Omega-3 content

Getty Images

Samples of the food given to participants were also analysed in a lab to identify their metabolites.

The researchers found a total of 1,518 compounds in the food, but only 508 were found to be unique to salmon.

If the researchers found a compound in salmon but not any other foods, they categorised it as a salmon food-specific compound.

They found increases in two salmon specific compounds and two metabolites that have long been known to reduce cholesterol, and are linked to a healthier cardiovascular system.

Many of these substances were fats, building on previous studies that point to the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids found in the fish.

The researchers also found those with high levels of these substances in their blood had bigger reductions in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, and apolipoprotein B, markers of heart disease.

"We are the first to identify salmon-specific bioactive compounds that increase in plasma after consuming [a Mediterranean diet] with ~4-8oz (one to two fillets) of salmon per week," the researchers wrote.

"Further, several of these food-specific compounds were associated with short-term improvement in cardiometabolic health indicators."

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