Herring for lunch increases ‘good cholesterol’

The secret of Swedish health could be on the way to being discovered. A new experiment shows eating pickled herrings for lunch five days a week can increase levels of 'good cholesterol'.

Five Volvo workers in Gothenburg were asked to eat herring for lunch five days a week. Tests show that the amount of high density lipoproteins (HDL), or good cholesterol, rose as a result.

“A lot of the fish that is caught today goes towards making fishmeal,” said doctoral student Helen Lindqvist at Chalmers University of Technology, which carried out the study.

“That is a huge waste when many other species are overfished.”

Lindqvist said she had conducted the study, the first into the health effects of herring, because fatty fish contain omega 3 fatty acids.

“We have measured blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride levels and inflammation markers on blood vessel walls of the people in the trial before and after the six week period,” she said.

The same people were then asked to eat various meat dishes for lunch for a further six week period, in order that the results could be compared.

“This is not an enormous study, so it should be taken with a pinch of salt, but we could see that levels of good cholesterol rose when people ate herring,” Lindqvist said.

Other researchers have previously studied the effects of fish-liver oil capsules, which are seen to protect against cardiovascular disease.

“The interesting thing with this experiment was to see what happened when the people in the trial ate the whole fish. We could measure a significant rise in omega 3 levels.”

No negative effects of the herring diet were noted. Lindqvist said that the fishing industry had not given financial backing to the study, although she had worked with the industry to get and industrial reference. The costs were covered with EU money through the Swedish Board of Fisheries, and by the Västra Götaland region.

All the participants in the study were slightly overweight men between 35 and 60.

The herring was prepared by top chef Leif Mannerström. The experiment appeared to have startling effects on the participants.

“There were always new tastes,” said Svenning Svenningsson, a worker at Volvo Cars.

“After the trial period I have drastically reduced my meat consumption,” he added.

Photo on previous page: Pål Allan / Copyright: Swedish Institute / Source: imagebank.sweden.se