Women of childbearing age can reduce their risk of heart problems by regularly eating fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids, said a Danish study out Monday.
The study is the first to examine younger women, age 15-49, and determine whether fish in their diet has a real impact on their current likelihood of heart problems, instead of their longevity.
For instance, "those who rarely or never ate fish had 50 percent more cardiovascular problems over eight years than those who ate fish regularly," the research said.
Women who rarely or never ate fish faced a 90 percent higher risk of heart problems than those who ate fish weekly.
When researchers looked at hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease in three different assessments over a 30 week period, they found it was three times higher among women who did not eat fish.
The findings, published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, are based on a Danish study of 49,000 women with a median age of 30 that spanned eight years.
Women were interviewed by phone about their family history, lifestyle and fish consumption, and were tracked over the next eight years.
"We saw a strong association with cardiovascular disease in the women who were still in their late 30s," said Marin Strom, lead researcher and post doctoral fellow at the Centre for Fetal Programming at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark.
"The biggest challenge in getting health messages like this across to younger populations is that usually the benefits may not be evident for 30 or 40 years, but our study shows this is not the case."
Women most commonly reported eating cod, salmon, herring, and mackerel, all of which are high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, believed to protect against heart and vascular disease.
The study focused exclusively on dietary intake of fish, not supplements with fish oil.
"Women who eat fish should find the results encouraging, but it is important to emphasize that to obtain the greatest benefit from fish and fish oils, women should follow the dietary recommendations to eat fish as a main meal at least twice a week," said Strom.