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Eating salmon can help lower your cholesterol

A recent study in the Journal of Nutrition reveals that consuming salmon as part of a diet can introduce at least 30 metabolites into the body. These metabolites, which are substances produced through digestion and other biochemical processes, include four that are associated with significant cardiovascular health benefits.

Focus of the study 

The research – led by the University of Colorado – involved 41 participants aged between 30 and 69, who were instructed to follow a Mediterranean diet. This diet included a variety of fish, low-fat meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. 

The health of their cardiovascular system was evaluated through blood analysis and other diagnostic tests before and after adhering to the diet. Specifically, the diet incorporated two servings of salmon per week over two five-week intervals, separated by a month-long break. 

The participants were selected based on being overweight or obese, yet none had any active metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes.

Salmon food-specific compounds

Additionally, the study involved laboratory analysis of the food provided to participants to identify the metabolites present. Of the 1,518 compounds detected in the food, 508 were unique to salmon. The researchers designated compounds found exclusively in salmon as salmon food-specific compounds.

The findings highlighted an increase in two salmon-specific compounds and two metabolites known for their cholesterol-reducing properties and links to improved cardiovascular health. 

Remarkable results

Many of these beneficial substances were identified as fats, underscoring the health advantages of omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon. Remarkably, participants with higher levels of these substances in their bloodstream exhibited more significant reductions in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, and apolipoprotein B, a marker of heart disease risk.

“We are the first to identify salmon-specific bioactive compounds that increase in plasma after consuming [a Mediterranean diet] with ~4-8oz (one to two filets) of salmon per week. Further, several of these food-specific compounds were associated with short-term improvement in cardiometabolic health indicators,” the authors wrote.

Salmon varieties 

Salmon varieties include five types of Pacific salmon and two types of Atlantic salmon, with wild-caught Pacific salmon often regarded as the most beneficial for health. The nutritional value, particularly the omega-3 content in wild salmon, depends on their natural diet, whereas in farmed salmon, it varies with the feed they are given.

The Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and olive oil, has been extensively studied and hailed as the optimal eating plan for health. Research indicates that transitioning to a Mediterranean diet from a typical Western diet can extend life expectancy, with greater benefits the earlier it is adopted.

Additional health benefits of salmon

Salmon is widely recognized for its impressive health benefits, largely due to its rich content of nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Heart health

One of the most notable benefits of consuming salmon is its contribution to heart health. The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon can help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, decrease triglycerides, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Additionally, it is a great source of high-quality protein, which is essential for muscle maintenance and repair.

Brain health

Another significant benefit is its role in brain health. The omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, are vital for maintaining brain function and are linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline as we age. These fatty acids can also be beneficial for mental health, helping to manage depression and anxiety.

Vitamins and minerals

Salmon also provides a good amount of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium, and potassium. Vitamin D is essential for bone health and immune function, while selenium helps protect bone health, decreases thyroid antibodies in people with autoimmune thyroid disease, and may reduce the risk of certain cancers.


Furthermore, the astaxanthin antioxidant in salmon, which gives it its red color, has been linked to several health benefits. It may help protect against heart disease, reduce the risk of brain damage from strokes, and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may protect against aging and help with skin elasticity.

Weight management 

Incorporating salmon into your diet can support weight management as well. Its high protein content can promote feelings of fullness, which may lead to reduced calorie intake throughout the day. This, combined with the metabolic boost from omega-3 fatty acids, makes salmon a beneficial food for weight control.

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