Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fish - Seafood and Healthy Eating

Did you know that a single 150 gram serving of fish or other seafood provides from 50%-60% of daily protein needs of an adult? All seafood is low in fat, generally less than 5%. The majority of fish types are low in cholesterol with the exception of prawns, squid and fish roe. However the higher amounts of cholesterol in these foods is offset by the higher levels of beneficial EPA and DHA omega 3 oils that they contain.

In comparison with meat, most seafood types have similar levels of cholesterol, but only a fraction of the saturated fat. A 150 gram fillet of fresh fish has less than 1 gram of fat and most of this fat is polyunsaturated.

Seafood is the health food of the century and baby boomers are buying it up by the pound. The leading reason for fish being a health hero is fish and seafood is practically the only natural source of Omega 3 fatty acids.

Not sure about how to pick fresh fish?
Go here to get some tips to help you ensure that you buy the best quality.

Omega 3, DHA and Great Taste

Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient that almost all Americans fall short on. In this low-fat, no-fat world this may seem strange. Simply put, the human diet requires a balance of certain fats. There are three main omega-3 fatty acids, ALA, EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA have longer molecules than ALA and by all indications appear to provide the greatest health benefits for us humans.

Grill it, poach it, broil it, or bake it. Any way you cook it, fish really is brain food. Not only that, but according to research, also food for your heart, prostate and more. Fish, particularly fatty fish, is an excellent source of the Omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

ALA sources include flaxseed, walnuts, and wheat germ and the many forms or brands of omega-3 tablets that are made with plant source ingredients. However, since humans do not readily convert ALA to the more beneficial EPA and DHA, the omega 3s in terrestrial plants and the products made or refined from plant sources probably do not provide as a great a health benefit as fish sources.

The American Heart Association recommends two servings per week of fish such as salmon, char, mackerel and herring because they contain more Omega-3 than lighter fish such as cod or halibut.

Fish is lower in saturated fat, total fat and calories than comparable portions of meat or poultry, the experts note in the Mayo Clinic Women's Health Source newsletter.

New England Journal of Medicine in 1997 reported reduced cardiovascular disease in people consuming fish high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA).

According to an October 26th, 2009 study at Department of Nutrition Science & Dietetetics, Harokopio, Athens, Greece, Long-Term Fish Consumption is Associated with Lower Risk of 30-Day Cardiovascular Disease Events in Survivors from an Acute Coronary Syndrome.

It is a well known fact that PUFA is helpful in reducing cholesterol level. People consuming PUFA are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. As humans are not able to synthesize omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), they must be supplied to the body in the diet. These fatty acids accomplish the synthesis of other essential fats.

French researcher Pascale Barberger-Gateau found that just one serving a week of fish decreased the risk of developing dementia by 30 percent. Eating fatty fish several times a week may also lower the risk of developing prostate cancer by as much as half.

A Swedish study of 3,500 postmenopausal women eating two servings of fatty fish a week found they were 40 percent less likely to develop endometrial cancer than those eating less than one-fourth of a serving a week. According to Science Journal [278: 1904 - 1905 (1997)], 7 ounces of fish per week is considered to be good and healthy for a woman of 60kg.

Fish consumption during pregnancy may result in a lower risk of preterm delivery or low birth weight. DHA in particular is essential for infant brain and eye development. It may even help prevent postpartum depression. However, be aware that several types of fish - swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tuna and tilefish are considered unsafe in any amount for pregnant or breastfeeding women, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, and small children, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's advisory. There is concern that these fish may contain high amounts of methylmercury, which has the potential to cause nervous system damage to a developing fetus and other damage to those at risk. Methylmercury is an industrial contaminant that sometimes finds its way into the waters in which fish live. Salmon, char, herring etc. are better choices.

A November 2nd, 2009 release from the Nutritional Intervention Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Tygerburg, South Africa presents the results of “A Randomized Control Trial in Schoolchildren that Showed Improvement in Cognitive Function After Consuming a Bread Spread, Containing Fish Flour From a Marine Source.

This South african clinical trial was initiated to investigate the potential effect of an experimental fish-flour bread spread enriched in omega-3 fatty acids as DHA/EPA on the cognitive performance of children ages 7-9 years. The omega-3 bread spread provided an average daily intake of 127mg of DHA + 55mg of EPA (DHA/EPA combined of 182mg/day) over a six month period. The control group had less than 20% of this intake of DHA/EPA. the current study suggested that the learning ability and memory of children aged 7-9 years improved after supplementing with a fish-flour bread spread containing long-chain omega-3 fatty acids as DHA/EPA embedded in a natural food matrix.

Dairy Farmers of Ontario can arrange to supply milk on request to Ontario dairy processors that contains increased levels of Omega-3 DHA (Docohexanoeic Acid). This milk is produced naturally from dairy cows on a specialized feeding program. The DHA content of the milk is guaranteed to be at least 0.3%. This milk is being used by several Ontario dairy processors to produce and market Omega-3 DHA milk and milk products. See past blog post

Current daily intakes of DHA in the North American population approximate 80 mg/day along with an additional intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acid as EPA approaching 30 mg/day. The American Dietetic Association in conjunction with the Dietitians of Canada have published a position paper (J. Am. Diet. Assoc., 107:1599-1611 (2007)) recommending a target daily intake of DHA+EPA of 500 mg/day for overall health and cardiovascular care for the general adult public. It is noted that the overall dietary ratio of DHA:EPA as consumed in mixed fish / seafood in a typical western diet is approximately 2.3:1.

Overall, fish is an important part of a balanced diet; it is full of vitamins, and other nutrients, including essential fatty acids. It helps in lowering cholesterol level and in controlling blood pressure. It is therefore important that you do not cut fish from your menu but be little cautious about the source and the amount of intake.

This article was first published by the author at

Friday, January 08, 2010

Recent research further points to the importance of fish oils, fish and seafood in healthy living

The DHA/ EPA Omega 3 Institute, today (January 8 2010) released a summary that their research findings support evidence for a link between DHA and cognitive development in infancy and early childhood.

The Report
Titled: Maternal DHA Levels and Toddler Free-Play Attention

With Reference:
Kannas et al., Developmental Neuropsychology, 34: 159 – 174 , 2009.
Department of Psychology , Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Has the following summary:

The research team evaluated the relationship between maternal DHA omega-3 status at the time of the infants’ birth and the subsequent attentional functioning of their toddlers at 12 and 18 months. This research was of particular interest since DHA is considered to be physiologically-essential in neuronal tissue at appropriate concentrations to support optimal cognitive functioning . Further, DHA levels increase markedly with brain development during the first 2 years of life and continue to increase thereafter based on measures in the cerebral cortex up to 18 years of age ( Brain Res. Bull., 56: 79-85 (2001).

More on this study at this Link

The DHA/ EPA Omega 3 Institute points out on their home page that there has been a dramatic surge in interest recently, amongst the public and health professionals alike, of the health effects of omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish and fish oils - consisting of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) plus eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
DHA is required in high levels in the brain and retina as a physiologically-essential nutrient to provide for optimal neuronal functioning (learning ability, mental development) and visual acuity, in young and old alike. DHA plus EPA are both considered to have beneficial effects in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease plus associated risk factors as well as other chronic disorders. Whereas considerable amounts of the plant-derived omega-3 fatty acid known as a-linolenic acid (ALA) is consumed daily in North America (approximately 2 g/day), the physiologically-essential nutrient, DHA, is consumed at much smaller levels (approximately 80 mg/day) while EPA is consumed at the level of approximately 50 mg/day in a typical North American diet.

More from The DHA/ EPA Omega 3 Insitute has recently updated its website section on “Seafood and Health” to include more information and references to research on the benefits of eating fish and seafood. From the reference materials linked above together with those referred to at it can be seen that Omega 3 alone isn’t the whole equation, rather Omega 3 that contains DHA/ EPA that can be readily assimilated by the human body is of more importance. Fish and fish oils have been proven to be one of the best sources of DHA/ EPA.
The essential fatty acids found in fish and seafood have become the source of nutrients used in augmenting other foods with DHA/ EPA due largely to a reluctance to regularly eat fish products. They are now being enhanced in or added to bread, milk, cheese, eggs, infant formula, gummy candy and yogurt.

More on this topic at Seafood and Health