Eating oily fish twice a week might reduce the risk of kidney disease, scientists say

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Scientists have found a link between higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids present in oily fish and other seafood and lower risk of developing kidney problems like chronic kidney disease (CKD), a condition that affects about 700 million people across the world.

Eating at least two portions per week of fatty cold-water fish like mackerel, sardines or herrings was associated with a reduced risk of developing kidney issues and a slower decline in the organ’s function.

It’s good news for pescatarians and omnivores, but not so good for vegetarians and vegans. While omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in plant-based food, the scientists only found that those from oily fish and seafood were linked to a reduced risk of kidney disease.

The study, led by the George Institute for Global Health and the University of New South Wales, was published in the BMJ medical journal. It combined the results of 19 trials involving more than 25,000 people from 12 different countries of different sex, race, body mass index, physical activities and medical history, and aged between 49 and 77.

The beneficial link between eating oily fish and having a healthier kidney was small, but it was definitely there: researchers found that higher levels of seafood omega 3s were associated with an 8 per cent lower risk of developing CKD. Over time, this disease can lead to kidney failure and even death.

The findings confirm what had been previously suggested by dietary guidelines recommending the weekly consumption of oily fish and other seafood, though until now there was not much evidence that omega-3 fatty acids might actually help keep our kidneys healthy.

“Although the magnitude of these associations was modest, our findings suggest adequate consumption of seafood and oily fish should be part of healthy dietary patterns,” the study’s conclusions read.

The researchers acknowledged that their findings were observational and did not demonstrate that eating more seafood definitely lowers the risk of CKD. They say further randomised controlled trials are needed to better understand the potentially beneficial role of seafood omega-3 fatty acids on our renal activity.

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