The dangers of not eating fish

Did you know you have a greater risk of dying of heart disease if you avoid eating fish?

Most seafood provides incredible nutrients that are hard to source from other foods, and it is thought these compounds are the ones that protect health.

In an article published on the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health site, you will recognise the familiar line about fish being the major source of omega-fats – but did you know that fatty fish also contain vitamin D, selenium and a generous portion of protein as well?

The mineral selenium is essential for proper metabolism and thyroid functions. Critically low levels will leave your organs exposed to oxidative stress.

“There is strong evidence that eating fish or taking fish oil is good for the heart and blood vessels. An analysis of 20 studies involving hundreds of thousands of participants indicates that eating approximately one to two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish a week – salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies or sardines – reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 36 per cent,” according to the article.

The analysis conducted by Harvard School of Public Health professors Dariush Mozaffarian and Eric Rimm calculated that eating about two grams per week of omega-3 fatty acids in fish, equal to about one or two servings of fatty fish a week, reduces the chances of dying from heart disease by more than one third.

If you turn your nose up at fish, you will not receive the protection afforded by omega-3 fats against high blood pressure, poor blood vessel function and elevated triglycerides. The latter are a type of fat that clog the bloodstream if you are not burning enough of the kilojoules you eat.

High triglyceride levels can lead to heart disease, but omega fats have been shown to moderate their harmful effect. Having a small serve of fatty fish daily could reduce dangerous triglyceride levels by up to 30 per cent. Omega-3 fatty acids may also slow down the growth of plaques in the arteries and reduce inflammation throughout the body.

Eating fish once or twice a week may also reduce the risk of stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic conditions.

Some Australians avoid seafood because of allergies, fear of contaminants in the fish, the high cost of fresh fish, doubts over the nutritional value of frozen fish or maybe because they do not like the flavour.

If people who avoid eating seafood do not take fish oil or hemp seed oil supplements to boost their omega fats, that are putting the chances of a long, healthy life at risk, the research shows.

In fact, one study reported some statistics that should make people who fear contaminants in fish sit up and pay attention. While it is not totally unreasonable to be put off by the knowledge that some seafood has unnatural levels of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), dioxins and pesticide residues, the Harvard School scientists say the fears are exaggerated.

Their analysis of environmental data and the risks posed to humans from eating fish was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They calculated that if 100,000 people ate farmed salmon twice a week for 70 years, the extra PCB intake could potentially cause 24 extra deaths from cancer – but would prevent at least 7000 deaths from heart disease.

Further, the scientists argue that levels of toxins in fish are low compared to their presence in other common foods such as eggs, meats, dairy and vegetables.

One exception, the study warns, could be freshwater fish caught by friends or family in local waterways. The scientists advise that you check with your area’s environmental authorities to see how local pollution is likely to affect fish in your area, and how much of it should be consumed.

Do you avoid eating fish? If so, what are your reasons? Do you believe studies that claim to show that pollutants and toxins in fish are so low that we should not worry about them? How much fish do you enjoy and which are your favourite varieties?

Related articles:
Fish oil and prostate cancer
Fatty acids and great skin
Seafood markets and more

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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