Why is fish good for you? It’s not because of omega-3 fatty acids

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In the 1970s a team of Danish researchers published a study The Innuit people living on the Greenland coast have fewer heart disease and diabetes than the people of Denmark. The duo attributed these better health results to a fish-rich indigenous diet.

Decades later, hundreds of studies sparked by this first paper found something largely similar: Fish is good for you. The results partly explain why the current U.S. dietary guidelines suggest that adults consume two servings of seafood per week. But like that the average American falls short Out of the recommended 8 ounces of fish a week have fish oil pills Taken over their own corner of the supplement market – a substitute that science doesn’t necessarily support. The benefits of eating fish, as evidence suggests, have more to do with the entire meal than with any wonder ingredient that appears on your plate.

The underlying evidence

When nutrition agencies make dietary recommendations, they draw evidence for their suggestions from long-term studies that track groups of people, their eating habits, and the health outcomes of individuals, says Maya Vadiveloo, a university-registered nutritionist and nutritional epidemiologist of Rhode Island. This type of research is known as observational study: scientists track people’s choices and what they do later in life, such as: B. Whether the participants develop heart disease, get cancer or die prematurely from similar serious health events.

Large-scale studies on “Track Diet and See What Happens” associated fish consumption with lower risks of heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and liver cancer. For example, a study evaluating the results of several of these long-term projects found that they were people who ate fish once a week 15 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. The consistency between various nutritional studies on the benefits of fish led to recommendations that Americans should eat two servings of seafood per week. But why people who eat better fish do better is not entirely clear yet. “The mechanism by which fish provide protection against cardiovascular disease is still being investigated,” says Vadiveloo.

Nutrition companies often charge a certain nutrient, which is abundant in some seafood, as something of a superpower nutritional factor: omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are critical to a number of cell functions. Since our body cannot make them, we have to find food sources. Of the three main types of omega-3 fatty acids, one is commonly found in walnuts, flaxseed, and soybean oil. The other two versions are found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna.

Some research has shown that fish rich in omega-3 fatty acidsin particular may convey benefits for heart health and the American Heart Association recommends that people should opt for high fat versions. The belief that omega-3s alone provide heart health benefits also explains the popularity of fish oil supplements.

So far, however, there is no scientific evidence that omega-3 fatty acids are the most important nutrient that protects people from heart disease. Studies to investigate the effects of fish oil capsules on heart health show mixed results. Some found that the supplements did not reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, or other fatal heart diseases. Other research has found that individuals already dealt with cardiovascular health problems Fish oil is most likely to have benefits. “Could you take an omega-3 pill and suddenly reduce your risk of heart disease? That’s the answer people often want, but the data doesn’t suggest it, ‚ÄĚsays Vadiveloo.

The broader benefits of fish

Science could support the heart health benefits of fish – not just omega-3s – as making room for water protein on your plate forces other dietary changes as well. For example, eating fish for dinner means someone is unlikely to be eating red or processed meat with that meal, Vadiveloo says. “The spare and replacement part is the key.”

Steak, bacon, and similar proteins are high in saturated fats, which raise cholesterol and contribute to heart disease. Lots of Americans consume too much of these harmful fatsand eating fish twice a week could mean someone is effectively cutting some saturated fats out of their diet and replacing them with more heart-healthy options.

There is also the possibility that when evaluating lifelong health outcomes for various diets, those who eat fish will generally make healthier choices, such as: B. more fruits and vegetables and less processed grains. Again, long-term studies that help shape nutritional guidelines do not determine what participants eat – researchers just keep track and evaluate the results. While studies attempt to control other influencing factors in data analysis, a tendency to eat healthier overall might still explain why fish consumption is a positive choice, says Vadiveloo.

While fish can replace other harmful fats in a person’s diet and encourage healthier eating habits, it can also have drawbacks – namely, environmental toxins that marine animals ingest. Mercury and chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls, pollutants that enter water systems from the soil, build up in the fish tissue and cannot be boiled or removed. Dietary guidelines take into account how many different toxins there might be in a given serving of fish, says Vadiveloo, and intend to limit the consumption of these harmful substances. In general, the FDA recommends that certain people be more picky about the fish they eat – especially pregnant women, those who might get pregnant, and young children. The agency advises these groups Choose low-mercury optionsas nutritional sources of the neurotoxin can cause development problems.

Consuming just one nutrient contained in a food in a capsule – in this case the oil made from sardines, anchovies, and the like – is not always the same as the food itself. “We see this pretty consistently when you look at the evidence for Looks at vitamins and minerals, “says Vadiveloo. “When we extract, we don’t always see exactly the same benefits.” And when it comes to fish, it’s the same: rethinking what’s on your plate is likely paying off in ways that adding to your medicine cabinet doesn’t.

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