Family trailblazes programme to improve UK heart health

Healthy Happy Hearts programme introduced after independent research shows most people in the UK are not getting enough Omega 3 Alan Peebles

Image credit: Alan Peebles for Chris Watt Photography

A family is launching a new Healthy Happy Hearts challenge (on Monday 18 February) to help improve the UK’s heart health.

Seafish logoThe programme, delivered by Seafish (the UK authority on seafood) and designed by expert nutritionists at the Queen Margaret University College, centres around independent research which shows that most of us are not getting enough of the Omega-3 fatty acids found in oil rich fish which are essential to heart health. Various pieces of research show most people in the UK have about 25% Omega 3 in their blood but more than 50% is the ideal level.

For the next six weeks the Aitchison family from the Edinburgh area – dad Steve, mum Charlotte, Arran (8), Rose (6) and Harris (3) – will follow specially created lifestyle and eating plans that could make a huge difference to their long term health and wellbeing.  The University of Stirling will conduct a specially designed test which will illustrate the families’ balance of omega fatty acids at the start and the end of the project.

Launching the initiative, Karen Galloway a spokesperson from Seafish said:

“It is great to be working with experts from the University of Stirling and Queen Margaret University on this exciting project which demonstrates the importance of eating oil rich fish for optimal health and wellbeing.”

“Healthy Happy Hearts is here to show individuals that getting more seafood into our daily meals needn’t be difficult. We are delighted [name of family] have agreed to take part in the project and share their learnings via our Fish is the Dish website, so that others can benefit from them.”

The family will record and share the results of their programme in video logs on, so that others can see how simple diet and lifestyle choices, including eating fish just twice a week, can transform the way they look and feel.

Dr Jane McKenzie, a registered dietitian and senior lecturer at Queen Margaret University said: “Many people will be surprised at just how easy it is to make the simple diet and lifestyle changes that could improve the balance of Omega-3 and make a significant difference to their health and wellbeing.

“Whether you’re a stay-at-home mum, a busy working parent, a high profile leader or an elite sportsperson, having the right Omega-3 to Omega-6 balance is essential for your body and is known to prevent heart health issues like heart attacks. We hope the[name of family’s] experience will be a good reality check for people to eat healthy or to reinforce their informed food choices that support a healthy active lifestyle.”

Speaking about her hopes for the project, mum Charlotte (39) said:

“As a stay at home mum, I’m always on my feet, so really looking forward to seeing how eating more fish make me feel fitter, healthier and full of energy.

“I also can’t wait experience different types of fish and to learn from the experts how to prepare and cook delicious seafood dishes that the whole family will enjoy. Not an easy task with three small, sometimes picky, children.”

Proving her point, eldest son Arran (8) said: “The only fish I like is fish fingers!”

Dad, Steve (36) added: “ I often work away from home, which can mean I don’t always eat healthy meals. I hope the Healthy Happy Hearts programme will help me make better food choices on the go.

“I’m also running the Edinburgh [is Edinburgh correct] marathon later this year [would be ideal if we could say this is in aid of BHF], so it would be ideal if the initiative also helps to give me the booster I need for personal fitness. I’d love to beat my personal best.”

For more information or to find out how the family are getting on visit:


Notes to editors

About Seafish

  • Seafish was founded in 1981 by an Act of Parliament and supports all sectors of the seafood industry for a sustainable, profitable future.
  • It is the only pan-industry body offering services to all parts of the seafood industry, including catching and aquaculture, processors, importers, exporters and distributors of seafood and restaurants and retailers.
  • Seafish is funded by a levy on the first sale of seafood landed and imported in the UK.
  • It aims to support and improve the environmental sustainability, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the industry, as well as promoting sustainably -sourced seafood.
  • For more information see

 About the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture

  • The University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture is one of the world’s oldest and leads in Aquaculture research, whilst also being the largest in the United Kingdom.  For more information see:
  • Research has demonstrated that:
    • Omega-3 should make up between 50% and 70% of the balance between an individual’s Omega Fatty Acids.
    • 40% to 50% Omega-3 is a healthy balance.
    • 60% to 70% Omega-3 is an ideal balance.
    • Reaching a healthy level of Omega-3 is important, but striving for an ideal level is recommended.
    • Most people tested in the Western world, who don’t regularly consume fish, have an average of 25% Omega-3 in their blood.

About Queen Margaret University

  • Queen Margaret University (QMU) provides highly relevant professional education and research that informs policy and practice in health, performing arts, media and social science, and business, enterprise and management.
  • The institution offers the widest range of allied health professional courses of any university in Scotland and its School of Health Sciences has an international reputation for teaching and research excellence. Within the area of health and rehabilitation, flagships include food and nutrition, speech and hearing sciences, international nursing education and rehabilitation science.
  • Within the University’s flagships of health and rehabilitation and sustainable business, QMU has expertise in applied research and knowledge exchange. With a keen interest in health, food and drink, QMU has been particularly successful in its support of and collaborations with small and medium sized food and drink companies. Its nutritionists, scientists, food technologists, functional food experts and marketers can provide a range of services to the food and drink sector including: nutritional analysis; new product development; food analysis, testing and microbiology; packaging and shelf life; taste panels and focus groups; consumer behaviour analysis and business and product evaluations.
  • Research at the University has demonstrated that intakes of fish, particularly oily fish, are below Government recommendations.
  • Although many consumers may have preconceived ideas about the acceptability of fish within their families diet, we have also shown that with a creative and informative approach most families are now enjoying incorporating fish into their regular meal plan.

Omega 3 and oil rich fish

  • Found in various concentrations in many different kinds of seafood, marine Omega-3 fatty acid comes from the family of ‘good’ fats that are not only beneficial for health, but are an essential dietary requirement. In fact, Omega-3 has been associated with brain development, joint function, healthy skin and eyes as well as better mental health. As the body isn’t able to produce these fats, it is important to include them in your dietary intake.
  • Over 3,000 research papers around the world chart the health benefits of Omega-3
  • Studies conclusively show that people in Western countries do not eat enough seafood. From healthy hearts to healthy minds, everyone can benefit from increasing their Omega-3 intake, thereby significantly reducing their chances of developing conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
  • The human brain is almost 60% fat and much of this is the Omega-3 fat DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Studies have shown that people who eat plenty of fish during their lives tend to experience less dementia and memory problems as they get older.
  • Other research has also suggested that adding more DHA to the diets of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can reduce their behavioural problems and improve their reading skills, while there have also been links suggested between DHA and better general concentration.
  • In other studies, participants consuming rich fish or Omega-3 diets felt significantly fuller and less hungry compared with those on the diets low in Omega-3. They also showed that eating seafood regularly might improve several metabolic and clinical alterations observed in obesity.
  • A number of studies have suggested that fish may help protect the lungs. One found that children suffering from asthma were more likely to show an improvement when fish oils were introduced into their diet, while another suggested that children who eat lots of fish might be less likely to become asthmatic. Fish may also help to increase your ‘puffing’ power, with research showing that people who eat a lot of fish tend to have more powerful lungs in old age than those who eat none.
  • Recent research has also found a link between Omega-3 fats and a deceleration in the wearing down of joint cartilage that leads to osteoarthritis, opening the door for more research into whether eating more seafood could help prevent the condition.
  • Eating oil-rich fish regularly can help keep eyes bright and healthy. According to a recent study, marine Omega-3 fatty acids can help protect the eyesight of people suffering with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition caused by the deterioration of the retina that causes blurred, fuzzy or distorted vision. Scientists recommend that people suffering with AMD should eat oil-rich fish at least twice a week, while some experts have also suggested that a diet rich in Omega-3 can cut a person’s risk of getting AMD by a third. Fish and shellfish are also known to be rich in retinol – a form of vitamin A that is easily absorbed into the body and helps to boost night vision.

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  1. […] of fun and engaging educational initiatives for family members of all ages. This includes the Healthy Happy Hearts programme, which highlights the importance of the Omega-3 fatty acids for good heart […]