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Habitual fish intake and clinically silent carotid atherosclerosis

Silvio Buscemi1*, Antonio Nicolucci2, Giuseppe Lucisano2, Fabio Galvano3, Giuseppe Grosso3, Serena Belmonte1, Delia Sprini1, Silvia Migliaccio4, Luisella Cianferotti5, Maria Luisa Brandi5 and Giovam Battista Rini1

Author Affiliations

1 Dipartimento Biomedico di Medicina Interna e Specialistica (DIBIMIS) – Laboratorio di Nutrizione Clinica, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy

2 Dipartimento di Farmacologia Clinica ed Epidemiologia, Consorzio Mario Negri Sud, S. Maria Imbaro, Mozzagrogna Chieti, Italy

3 Dipartimento di Scienze del Farmaco, University of Catania, Catania, Italy

4 Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale – “Sapienza” University Roma, Roma, Italy

5 Dipartimento di Medicina Interna, University of Firenze, Firenze, Italy

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Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:2  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-2

Published: 9 January 2014



Fish consumption is recommended as part of a healthy diet. However, there is a paucity of data concerning the relation between fish consumption and carotid atherosclerosis. We investigated the association between habitual fish consumption and asymptomatic carotid atherosclerosis, defined as the presence of plaques and/or increased intima-media thickness (≥ 0.90 mm), in non-diabetic participants.


Nine hundred-sixty-one (range of age: 18–89 yrs; 37.1% males) adult participants without clinically known atherosclerotic disease were randomly recruited among the customers of a shopping mall in Palermo, Italy, and cross-sectionally investigated. Each participant answered a food frequency questionnaire and underwent high-resolution ultrasonographic evaluation of both carotid arteries. Routine laboratory blood measurements were obtained in a subsample of 507 participants.


Based on habitual fish consumption, participants were divided into three groups: non-consumers or consumers of less than 1 serving a week (24.0%), consumers of 1 serving a week (38.8%), and consumers of  2 servings a week (37.2%). Age-adjusted prevalence of carotid atherosclerosis (presence of plaques or intima media thickness ≥ 0.9 mm) was higher in the low fish consumption group (13.3%, 12.1% and 6.6%, respectively; P = 0.003). Multivariate analysis evidenced that carotid atherosclerosis was significantly associated with age (OR = 1.12; 95% CI = 1.09-1.14), hypertension on pharmacologic treatment (OR = 1.81; 95% CI = 1.16-2.82), and pulse pressure (OR = 1.03; 95% CI = 1.01-1.04), while consuming 2 servings of fish weekly was protective compared with the condition of consumption of <1 serving of fish weekly (OR = 0.46; 95% CI = 0.26-0.80).


High habitual fish consumption seems to be associated with less carotid atherosclerosis, though adequate interventional trials are necessary to confirm the role of fish consumption in prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Fish consumption; Carotid atherosclerosis; Carotid intima-media thickness; Hypertension; Pulse pressure