Dieticians have recommended consuming salmon for extended periods because studies have found that people who eat it frequently are more likely to be slim and disease-free.
Until now, the question of what specifically is in salmon that offers health benefits has remained mostly unanswered.
Researchers at the University of Colorado believe they have identified at least four compounds in fish that can lower the ‘bad’ type of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that builds up in blood vessels, damaging them and increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke dramatically.
The university’s new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, showed that eating salmon allows you to consume at least metabolites — substances made during digestion or other chemical processes.
Four of the metabolites are linked to significant cardiovascular health improvements.
In the study, researchers asked 41 participants ages 30-69 to eat a Mediterranean diet, including low-fat meat, fruit, vegetables, a range of fish, and whole grains.
Then, they assessed how healthy the individuals’ cardiovascular system was by analyzing blood and conducting other tests. Tests were conducted before and after the diet.
Included in the diet were two salmon servings weekly for two five-week periods, with a break for a month in between.
Participants were overweight or obese, but none had any active metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Food samples given to participants were additionally analyzed in a lab to identify the metabolites. Researchers found 1,518 compounds in the food; however, only 508 were unique to salmon.
If researchers located a compound found in salmon but not in any other foods, they placed it in the category of a salmon food-specific compound.
They found escalations in two salmon-specific compounds and two other metabolites that have long been known to reduce cholesterol and are linked to a healthier cardiovascular system.
Many of the substances were fats and offer additional evidence of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids found in the fish.
Additionally, researchers found people with increased levels of these substances in their blood had more substantial reductions in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, apolipoprotein B, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.
“We are the first to identify salmon-specific bioactive compounds that increase in plasma after consuming [a Mediterranean diet] with ~4-8 oz (one to two fillets) of salmon per week,” wrote the researchers. “Further, several of these food-specific compounds were associated with short-term improvement in cardiometabolic health indicators.”
There are numerous types of salmon — two types of Atlantic salmon and five types of Pacific salmon.
Wild-caught salmon is generally considered to be the healthiest. The type and amount of omega-3s found in wild salmon are based on the plankton and algae in the fish’s diet.
In farmed salmon, it is based on what feed type they eat.
The Mediterranean diet comprises plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, olive oil, and legumes. Much research has pinpointed the Mediterranean diet as the gold-standard eating plan.
A study published last year found switching to a Mediterranean diet from a typical Western diet can help lengthen your life. The earlier in life you begin — the better.