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Oily fish seen as vital to stop heart disease

Last updated 05:00 12/11/2012
CANNED SARDINES: For lunchtime or pre-dinner snacks.

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Forget eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away. A daily dose of sardines is what's needed to combat heart disease and obesity, experts say.

As much as $3 billion could be saved through preventing secondary heart attacks with a diet rich in fish oil, a recent Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia report claimed.

Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids most common in fish have been widely-linked with reducing heart disease but New Zealanders are not getting enough.

Omega-3 health expert and World Health Organisation consultant Stuart Tomc said the contributors to obesity had been over-simplified. "We've told people eating vegetable oil will lower cholesterol. But vegetable oils are converted pro-inflammatory compounds. The salad dressing could be the most dangerous thing on your table."

Like many Western cultures, New Zealanders get too much omega-6 through vegetable fats in fried fast food and processed foods.

Omega-6, which can make people more susceptible to conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity, can "cancel out" omega-3 in a diet.

Even a seemingly healthy diet could be dangerously void of omega-3, he said. Peanuts, corn-based products, oatmeal, avocado, chickpeas and eggs were all low in omega-3 and higher in omega-6.

Fish, macadamia nuts, flaxseed oil, seaweed and even canola oil were foods with higher levels of omega-3. "To feed your children an anchovy every day is more important than an apple."

Dosing heart patients with omega-3 fish oil would save $2000 a year per patient in preventing secondary disease, a recently released Deloitte Access Economics report in Australia found.

Mr Tomc would like to see governments do more in educating people about the importance of fish, and even subsidise fish oil. Fairfax NZ

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