The Health Benefits of Oily Fish
We spend a lot of time talking about how important it is to eat two or more portions of oily fish a week. But we’re not the only ones. The American Heart Association makes the same recommendation, among many other health organizations the world over. Why is oily fish so crucial to a healthy diet? What benefits do they provide? What scientific research backs up these claims?
Let’s dive in.
Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease
An analysis published by Dariush Mozaffarian and Eric B. Rimm in 2006 looked at the impact of eating EPA and DHA (two of the most common types of oil found in fish). Their conclusion: eating 250 mg of EPA and DHA per day can reduce the risk of heart disease by a third.
To reach their conclusion, they compiled studies on fish oil consumption and its association with heart attacks and general mortality. They found that people who consumed a sufficient quantity were 36% less likely to die from heart disease and 17% less likely to die from any disease.
Other studies have reached similar conclusions. This one is notable because it used a realistic quantity of actual fish--often studies use a large dose of fish oil supplements instead.
What’s behind this? Scientists hypothesize the health benefits come from EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid. It’s believed to have a significant anti-inflammatory effect, and this could help to protect the cardiovascular system from disease.
May Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Multiple studies have looked at the potential link between the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish and reduced cancer rates. The two seem correlated. In other words, if you consume more oily fish or omega-3 supplements, you’re less likely to be diagnosed with cancer. The link is especially strong with breast, prostate, and colon cancers, some of the most common in the United States.
Researchers think the anti-inflammatory effects of EPA may be behind this correlation. It could also be that people who eat more oily fish are less likely to consume saturated fats and processed meats, which have a negative effect on health and increase the risk of colon cancer. If nothing else, it’s proof that eating a balanced diet rich in fiber, nutrients, and healthy fats (from fish, hempseed, flax seed, or olive oil) can contribute to your overall health.
May Reduce the Risk of Dementia
Several studies have suggested that oily fish consumption can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, conducted in the Netherlands, researchers tracked the diets of over 5,000 elderly subjects over 2 years and noted that people with diets rich in fish were less likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
Similar studies have been conducted in France. The jury is still out on whether oily fish can protect against dementia, but the data is promising so far.
It Helps with Brain Development in Infants
A study published by the Lancet in 2007 found that omega-3 fatty acids were essential for brain development in infants. The benefits begin during pregnancy.
Researchers studied 12,000 pregnant women. Mothers who ate at least 2 portions of fish per week gave birth to babies with higher intelligence scores. On the flip side, the study found that women who consumed very small amounts of fatty acids were more likely to give birth to babies that scored poorly on tests for motor skills, communication, and social development.
Pregnant mothers who haven’t been eating fish shouldn’t worry. The study doesn’t mean your children will definitely have learning difficulties if you abstain. For one thing, it only included children during the early stages of life. There’s no evidence the effects persist later in life. But adding some oily fish to your diet if you’re pregnant is worth trying.
Summary: Health Benefits of Oily Fish
Fatty fish isn’t a miracle cure. It won’t offset the damage caused by a diet rich in saturated fat or undo years of smoking or substance abuse. But research suggests it could prolong your life by several years when combined with a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Luckily, it’s very easy to add healthy seafood to your diet. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not that expensive. A single pack of our Norwegian Salmon contains two pieces of 6-ounce salmon fillets--which is more than enough to fulfill your weekly requirements. It’s sustainably sourced and antibiotic-free, and carefully frozen to lock in all the essential nutrients your body craves.
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