Women are more likely to benefit from consuming fish compared to men, says a new study.
Researchers found that fish oil has a direct effect on the muscles that control the elasticity of the heart.
Heart disease is the leading cause of disability and death in women. About 7.5 million women in the U.S. have coronary heart disease (CHD). In the year 2009, more than 604,000 women diagnosed with CHD were discharged after short stays in hospital, according to the American Heart Association.
In the study, the researchers introduced small amounts of fish oil in the participants' food. They found that heart muscle elasticity improved 4 fold in women compared to just two-fold in men. Surprisingly, the improvement in women's heart was same as is seen in women who take pills to improve heart elasticity.
The researchers also found that women with certain genetic variation that produces the protein eNOS were more likely to benefit from the fish oil. This protein helps increase blood flow to the heart.
The study had equal number of men and women and also equal number of women with or without the genetic variation and so the study results couldn't be due to chance, the researchers said.
"Although the responses varied, all the subjects in the study benefitted from taking fish oils with a meal. However, for women and those with the gene variant, the responses were very marked indeed, and when it comes to their diet could give them considerable health benefits in the future," said Professor Christine Williams from the Reading University, lead author of the study.
In the study, the researchers found that the fish oil directly affected the muscles in the heart while previous research suggested that fish oil releases nitric oxide from blood vessels making blood flow easier.
"This is an exciting discovery which gives us a new way of looking at how our diet affects the health of our blood vessels, and possibly more effective ways of improving heart health in the future," professor Williams added.
The study is published in the Journal of Lipid Research.