Populations around the world that eat fish regularly live longer and have less chronic disease than populations that do not. Whether this is because fish displaces meat or because it has positive attributes of its own is not clear. Certainly, fish provides high-quality protein without the saturated fat present in commercially raised (feedlot) meat and poultry. It is the fatty fish from cold northern waters – also provide omega-3 fatty acids, the special, unsaturated fats our bodies need for optimum health. The cold water fish are; wild salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and bluefish – this is the absolute best place to buy fresh wild seafood, we have been buying from them for years and highly recommend them.
Most Americans are deficient in omega-3s and as a result are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory disorders, and mental and emotional problems. Recent research suggests that supplementing the diet with omega-3 fatty acids not only can reduce these risks but can also help treat depression, bipolar disorder, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s the omega-3 fatty acids that are associated with many health benefits, including protection against heart disease and possibly stroke. New studies are identifying potential benefits for a wide range of conditions including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, not to mention the studies on fresh fish diets and how they delay Dementia, protect memory and ward-off Alzheimer’s.
A recent study found that people who eat fish weekly may be reducing their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or milder forms of memory loss. That’s the implication of a novel study that compared people’s fish intake with their MRI brain scans and tested mental performance (RSNA 2011). This is the first study to detect a link between fish consumption and the health of brain areas shrunken by the Alzheimer’s disease process. Funding for the study was provided by the National Institute on Aging.
Lead author of the study Cyrus Raji, M.D., Ph.D., said,
“… people who consumed baked or broiled fish at least one time per week had better preservation of gray matter volume in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Consuming baked or broiled fish [weekly] promotes stronger neurons in the brain’s gray matter by making them larger and healthier,” noted Dr. Raji (UPMC 2011)
The study’s results linked eating baked or broiled fish weekly to dementia-related brain areas over a 10-year period.
In contrast, eating fried fish was not linked to protection of gray matter or cognitive capacities. In contrast to the benefits of baked or broiled fish, no brain-volume benefits were seen in the men and women who reported eating mostly fried fish.
In contrast to the benefits of baked or broiled fish, no brain-volume benefits were seen in the men and women who reported eating mostly fried fish. Thus, “fried fish flunks the test!”
Gray matter volume is crucial to brain health.
When gray matter remains higher, brain health is being maintained. Decreases in gray matter volume indicate that brain cells are shrinking.
The findings showed that consumption of baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis was positively associated with gray matter volumes in several areas of the brain. Greater hippocampal, posterior cingulate and orbital frontal cortex volumes in relation to fish consumption reduced the risk for five-year decline to MCI or Alzheimer’s by almost five-fold.
“Consuming baked or broiled fish promotes stronger neurons in the brain’s gray matter by making them larger and healthier,” Dr. Raji said. “This simple lifestyle choice increases the brain’s resistance to Alzheimer’s disease and lowers risk for the disorder.”
Dr. Raji’s team estimated that their bigger brains make it five times less likely that the fish lovers in the study would develop Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) over the next five years. MCI is a mild, early form of dementia, where memory loss is much less than in full-blown senile dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Raji said,
“This simple lifestyle choice increases the brain’s resistance to Alzheimer’s disease and lowers risk for the disorder.” (UPMC 2011)
The UPMC-led team also tested the volunteers’ cognitive and memory capacities, and those who ate baked or broiled fish weekly scored better versus those who ate fish infrequently.
Dr. Raji explained,
“Working memory is destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease. We found higher levels of working memory in people who ate baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis, even when accounting for other factors, such as education, age, gender and physical activity.” (UPMC 2011)
Clearly we need omega-3 fatty acids for numerous normal body functions, such as controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain, and since our bodies cannot make omega-3 fats, we must get them through food. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential nutrients for health.
For good health, you should aim to get at least one rich source of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet every day. For the times when fresh wholesome fish is not an option a high quality fish oil supplement is the next best option, OmegaGize³™ is my choice. OmegaGize³™ combines the power of three core daily supplements-omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D-3, and CoQ10 (ubiquinone). These supplements combined with a proprietary enhancement essential oil blend to create an omega-3, DHA-rich fish oil supplement that may support general wellness. Used daily these ingredients work synergistically to support normal brain, heart, eye, and joint health. OmegaGize³™ (item #3097) can be purchased on my webpage.
Omega-6 fatty acids (also known as n-6 fatty acids) are also polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential nutrients, meaning that our bodies cannot make them and we must obtain them from food as well. They are abundant in the Western diet; common sources include safflower, corn, cottonseed, and soybean oils. Omega-6 fatty acids lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and reduce inflammation, and they are protective against heart disease.
Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are healthy. While there is a theory that omega-3 fatty acids are better for our health than omega-6 fatty acids, this is not supported by the latest evidence. Thus the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is basically the “good divided by the good,” so it is of no value in evaluating diet quality or predicting disease.
Clearly, we need to buy our cold water fish from a reputable source and, once the fish is in our own hands, we need to handle it properly so as to not destroy the valuable omega fatty acids. The healthful qualities of fish can be neutralized by unhealthful ways of cooking it. Here are some helpful facts and tips to help you make good choices and handle your fish in the best ways.
Storing and Cooking Fresh Fish
Studies show that the omega-3 content of salmon and other fish is virtually unaffected by freezing, and is lowered only slightly by smoking or proper cooking.
Cooking wild fish using high-temperature broiling or pan-frying will lower its total fat content modestly, without reducing its healthful ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats.
Deep-frying Fish and Omega-3s
Breading and then deep-frying fish will reduce its omega-3 content rather significantly and add omega-6 fats (the omega-6 coming from the cooking oil which will bring the natural balance out of kilter, not so good).
Studies show that breaded, deep-fried fish does not offer the same cardiovascular or stroke-prevention benefits associated with fish that is not fried in vegetable oils.
Air, Light, Heat and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can be damaged (oxidized) by air, light and heat, causing that rancid odor that signals spoiled seafood.
This is why it’s important to know the source of your fish and seafood, only the most quality-conscious processors will handle fish and seafood properly, thus maintaining nutritional benefits.
What you want to see from the processor is that they take the seafood straight from the open ocean to storage onboard in tanks filled with cold seawater or ice. Then, within hours of harvest, the fish should be filleted and flash-frozen the same day they were caught. It is this type of handling that will maintain the integrity and nutrition of the fish and seafood.
Polyunsaturated oils, including the omega-3 fats, in fresh fish are susceptible to damage from heat, light, and oxygen. When exposed to these elements for too long, the fatty acids in the oil become oxidized, a scientific term that simply means that the oil becomes rancid and you can smell that nasty fishy odor.
Rancidity not only alters the flavor and smell of the oil, but it also diminishes the nutritional value. More importantly, the oxidation of fatty acids produces free radicals, which are believed to play a role in the development of cancer and other degenerative diseases.
A recent study published in the journal Circulation, Heart Failure, sought to ascertain whether fish or the fatty acids they contain are independently associated with risk for incident of heart failure among postmenopausal women. The authors concluded that:
“Increased baked/broiled fish intake may lower [heart failure] risk, whereas increased fried fish intake may increase [heart failure] risk in postmenopausal women.”
Best Source to Buy Fresh Fish and Seafood
While living in the Pacific NW we were fortunate enough to come across the best source for fresh wild fish. I cannot tell you how happy we were to find this source because for years I had stopped buying fish due to the quality never living up to my expectations. We particularly like the sampler packs because they provide a fabulous assortment of wild fish, and nothing is better than fresh wild salmon in my book! They also have a omega 3 salmon oil supplement which I have not tried yet only because I’ve been very happy with OmegaGize but I’m sure it is of very high quality too.
Interestingly, this same source also happens to be the source that both Dr. Andrew Weil and Christiane Northrup, M.D. recommend – yay!
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (UPMC). Eating Fish Reduces Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, Pitt Study Finds. Nov. 30, 2011.
Radiological Society of North America annual meeting (RSNA 2011). Raji C et al. Regular Fish Consumption Is Associated with Larger Gray Matter Volumes and Reduced Risk for Cognitive Decline in the Cardiovascular Health Study
Neuroradiology (Cognition II); Friday, December 02 2011
Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). Eating Fish Reduces Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. December 1, 2011.
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