Finland—Including more fatty fish in the diet is an important means of positively influencing cholesterol levels, says new research out of the University of Eastern Finland (UEF). The study, published in PLOS ONE, shows people who increased their fatty fish intake to at least three to four weekly meals had more large HDL particles in their blood than those who ate less fish.

Large HDL cholesterol has been shown in population studies to be efficient at sweeping extra cholesterol off of artery walls, according to the researchers. Such molecules are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, while small HDL particles may increase risk.

Study participants increased their intake of fatty fish, specifically, and positive changes in lipid metabolism were found in those who ate the most. The fish species found to be beneficial included salmon, rainbow trout, herring and vendace. The researchers say that this study doesn’t predict what effects would occur if people consumed primarily low-fat fish, such as zander and perch. They write that low-fat fish may have other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, as this effect was observed in a previous study at UEF. While the consumption of fish is well-established to benefit health, the researchers note that the mechanisms by which fats and other nutrients impact the human body aren’t fully understood.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2014