More than 70 years ago, Dr Weston A. Price, a dentist from Cleveland, USA, set off on a 10-year expedition to the most remote parts of the earth.
On his travels, he discovered tribes and villages of so called ‘primitive people’.
Remarkably, these people were almost perfectly healthy. And yet their diets challenged everything that was considered ‘good for you’ at the time.
Perhaps the healthiest of all were the Eskimo peoples of Alaska, even though they regularly ate a highly fatty diet consisting mainly of fish, seal oil, and seal and whale blubber. In fact, the Eskimos were found to be more robust and healthier than those in the west.
But it wasn’t until the 1970’s that Dr Price’s findings were investigated further.
A group of clinical epidemiologists were shocked to find that, despite their high fat intake, Greenland Eskimos had an extremely low death rate from heart disease.
Most confusing, however, was that even though the Eskimo’s total fat intake was of a similar level to those in the western world, ‘modern civilization’ was experiencing a high increase in heart disease.
The answer to this puzzle lay with the types of fat that were consumed.
Less than nine per cent of the Eskimos’ total fat intake was made up of ‘heart-harmful’ saturated fat, compared to the modern diet which included more than 22 per cent.
More importantly, the Eskimo’s enormous consumption of fish and marine blubber - predominant sources of the omega 3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA - accounted for why their high-fat diet could be heart healthy.
In contrast, omega 3 fatty acids are notably lacking in western diets where the incidence of heart disease continues to rise.
But research into boosting dietary omega 3 fish oils has shown some promising results in the improvement of heart health.
Omega 3 supplements containing DHA and EPA have been shown to help reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and reduce the hardening of arteries and plaque build-up. It is this build-up of plaque that is largely responsible for the development of heart disease.
Other studies have also found that of all those who took part, the people with the highest body levels of omega 3 have up to a 44 per cent lower risk of a heart attack than those with the lowest levels.
Experts can now say with increasing confidence that omega 3 essential fatty acids play a prominent role in the maintenance of a healthy heart.