THURSDAY, June 17, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A combination of prolonged exercise and fish oil can dramatically reduce levels of a fat that can cause hardening of the arteries, a leading cause of heart disease, researchers say.
The study found that people who do prolonged, aerobic exercise have muscle cells that are able to quickly break down and reduce levels of a fat called triglycerides. Taking a fish oil supplement can reduce triglyceride levels even more, according to researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
"Fat in the bloodstream is a primary contributor to atherosclerosis, or partial blockage of the arteries," researcher Tom Thomas, professor of nutritional science at the university, said in a prepared statement.
"The results of this research demonstrate that it is very beneficial for active people to take fish oil if they're concerned about their triglyceride levels after eating a fatty meal," Thomas said.
He and his colleagues studied triglyceride levels in recreationally active men after they'd eaten high-fat meals.
One group ate a fatty meal after they exercised. A second group ate a high-fat meal after taking a four-gram fish oil supplement. A third group ate a high-fat meal after exercising and taking the fish oil supplement. A control group ate a high-fat meal only.
The study found a 38 percent decline in peak triglyceride levels in the men who took a fish oil supplement before they ate a high-fat meal. Peak triglyceride levels dropped 50 percent in the men who exercised and took a fish oil supplement before they ate a high-fat meal.
These findings may help scientists find ways to minimize the reliance on drugs in order to treat heart disease. The study will be published this summer in the journal Metabolism.
The American Heart Association has more about atherosclerosis.