Salmon contains unique compounds that may help to reduce the bad cholesterol levels in overweight individuals, according to a new study.
Salmon is an excellent source of healthy fats and vitamins A, D, and B12. It is also an essential component of the Mediterranean diet, considered one of the best dietary patterns for heart health.
While salmon has long been among foods recommended by nutrition experts, a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition looked at cold-water fish from a metabolomic perspective.
The study found that salmon contains 508 food-specific compounds (FSCs), including 237 metabolites that are unique to salmon.
Improved cardiometabolic health
The study followed 41 participants aged 30–69 classified as overweight or with obesity without acute illness or active metabolic disease, such as type 2 diabetes. They ate the Mediterranean diet with two servings of salmon (4–8 oz) per week for two five-week periods.
The participants had their fasting plasma samples collected before and after the study, as well as their cardiometabolic health indicators (CHIs) recorded.
Using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry-based metabolomics, the researchers analyzed plasma, salmon, and 99 other foods from the Mediterranean diet.
Two annotated salmon FSCs and two metabolites were associated with improved cardiometabolic health, such as reduced total and LDL (the bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and apolipoprotein B, a predictor of heart disease.
The study does not prove that specific salmon compounds and metabolites reduce bad cholesterol levels; it just shows an association. Moreover, the Mediterranean diet as a whole can have a positive impact on cholesterol levels.
As salmon was the only seafood consumed within the Mediterranean diet intervention, the identified compounds may not be unique to salmon compared to shrimp, other fish, and similar animal products.
Moreover, the FSCs identified are only specific to salmon within the particular 100 foods studied. Therefore, findings should be replicated across a greater number of foods.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
There’s not one standard Mediterranean diet, as at least 16 countries with different religions, geography, and agricultural practices border the Mediterranean Sea. Nevertheless, eating patterns in all these countries share some common factors:
- Focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes.
- Using extra virgin olive oil instead of butter or other oils.
- Limiting red meat to no more than one serving a week.
- Receiving protein from two to three weekly servings of fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines.
- Limiting dairy products.
- Avoiding sweets, sugary beverages, added sugars, sodium (salt), highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and fatty or processed meats.
While more research into the unique components and metabolites of salmon is needed, it is well-established that the fish is a rich in omega-3 fatty acids that benefit heart and brain health.
- The Journal of Nutrition. Salmon Food-Specific Compounds and Their Metabolites Increase in Human Plasma and Are Associated with Cardiometabolic Health Indicators Following a Mediterranean-Style Diet Intervention.
- American Heart Association. What is the Mediterranean Diet?