Fish is what you might call a ‘primal’ food, and therefore it’s perhaps not surprise that its consumption has been associated with broad benefits for health. For instance, in a study published recently in the journal Medical Science Monitor, the relationship between fish-eating and a variety of markers of health were assessed in a group of individuals aged 65-100 years hailing from the Mediterranean region.
Higher fish intake was found to be associated with lower systolic blood pressure (the higher of the two blood pressure values), fasting blood sugar (glucose) level, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Also, for every 100 g decrease in weekly fish consumption, there was found to be a 19 per cent increased risk of having an additional risk factor such as high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity. The authors of this study concluded that the results of their study indicate that long-term fish intake is associated with reduced levels of the most common cardiovascular disease risk markers in a cohort of elderly people.” And the results of this study suggest that even a little bit of fish can go a long way to protecting against disease risk factors.
However, while this study is of at least some interest, it should be remembered that it is ‘epidemiological’ in nature. What this means is that while it has found associations between fish-eating and reduced risk of markers for ill-health, it doesn’t prove that it’s the fish-eating that is having the benefit.
Fortunately, we now have quite a lot of data from studies where individuals have actually been given fish or fish oil (omega-3 rich) supplements to see what effect this had on health outcomes. A review of 50-odd studies concluded that omega-3 fats, either from oily fish or fish oil supplements, have the capacity to reduce death rates due to heart disease, as well as overall risk of death .
1. Panagiotakos DB, et al. Long-term fish intake is associated with better lipid profile, arterial blood pressure, and blood glucose levels in elderly people from Mediterranean islands (MEDIS epidemiological study Med Sci Monit, 2007;13(7): CR307-312
2. Wang C, et al. n”3 Fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not -linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular disease outcomes in primary- and secondary-prevention studies: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:5-17