The Regal team are celebrating their 20th year of successful trading this year – the perfect opportunity to introduce to you 20 great reasons to eat fish!
- GREAT FOR HEALTH – Fish has always been seen as a food necessary for good health – since ancient times, fish was recognised as being ‘brain food’, a reference to its importance in the development of a healthy brain, not to mention the reputed, but as of yet unproven, aphrodisiac effects of oysters. Research over the past few decades has confirmed the importance of the nutritional components of fish in brain development and reproduction and highlighted a role for fish in a variety of other functions in the body. There is strong evidence that fish plays a major role in protecting against heart disease and may also play a role in the prevention of other illnesses. Components of fish are also important in the development and maintenance of the eyes, skin and nervous system. The body requires a balance of n-3 (Omega-3) and n-6 fats for good health – oil-rich fish is a great source of Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) which is thought to have many health benefits.
- FAT SOLUBLE & WATER SOLUBLE VITAMINS – Fish and shellfish are well known as sources of the fat soluble vitamins A and D. Vitamin A can occur in two different forms – as retinol, which is easily absorbed by the body, or as carotenoids, which are less easily absorbed and only have 50% of the absorption rate of retinol. Carotenoids are converted to Vitamin A once absorbed by the body. The easily absorbed retinol is the type of vitamin A found in fish. Vitamin A has a number of functions in the body – it is needed in the eye for the transmission of light stimuli to the brain and is important for night vision. It promotes the growth and health of all cells and is particularly important for endothelial cells (the cells lining the inner walls of the blood vessels). It is important for reproduction and embryo development and acts as an antioxidant, helping to reduce risks of some cancers and heart disease. Vitamin A is found in quite high amounts in oil-rich fish such as herring and mackerel and in shellfish. 100g portions of these fish provide around 10 to 15% of the adult recommended daily amount for retinol. Oil-rich fish are also excellent dietary sources of vitamin D3, (cholecalciferol) providing 50 to 200% of the RDA in a 100g portion. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the intestines and regulates blood calcium levels. Without vitamin D the small intestine absorbs no more than 10 to 15% of dietary calcium. Vitamin D is also important in bone metabolism, helping to control bone formation and resorption and it may also play a role in preventing some cancers. Most fish are also a source of some B Vitamins which are essential for the metabolism of food, particularly carbohydrate, with B12 being important for the formation of red blood cells.
- MINERALS – Fish are better known for the dietary minerals they supply than for the vitamins. This is because minerals such as iodine and selenium, which are supplied by fish, are found in much lower amounts in non-marine foods. Fish are an excellent source of iodine and selenium, which plays a role in protecting cell membranes from damage by free radicals (substances formed by the body as part of normal metabolism which can be damaging to the body and are linked with increased risk of heart disease and cancer). Iron levels are not high in fish but as the iron present is easily absorbed it is a useful dietary source. Shellfish has higher levels of iron, similar to that of red meat. Shellfish, in particular oysters, is a rich source of zinc which is important for reproduction.
- HEART DISEASE – The effects of Omega-3 fats (found in oil-rich fish) on coronary heart disease (CHD) has been extensively studied since it was first noted that the Inuit population, whose diets contained high levels of Omega-3 fats, had significantly lower levels of heart disease. One study showed a 52% lower risk of sudden cardiac death with the consumption of one fish meal a week or more. Interestingly, the group with the higher fish consumption also showed lower risk of mortality from any cause, suggesting other possible benefits of fish. Omega-3 Fats are strongly associated with protection from CHD, especially in people with heart disease related risk factors and people already diagnosed with heart disease.
- ARRHYTHIMIAS – Diseased heart muscle is susceptible to irregular electrical activity known as arrhythmias. Arrhythmia is linked with sudden death from heart disease and many studies examining the effects of fish oils on heart disease have found that the Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA have a strong anti-arrhythmic action on the heart. Several studies have shown a reduction in sudden death due to ventricular arrhythmias when fish or fish oils were consumed on a regular basis.
- THROMBOSIS – A heart attack occurs when an artery that is already narrowed with fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) becomes entirely blocked. This blockage is usually due to a blood clot or thrombosis. The thrombosis occurs as a result of damage to the endothelial cells lining the wall of the artery. A blood clot or thrombus is caused by blood platelets sticking together and both endothelial cells and platelets produce eicosanoids which cause platelets to stick together (aggregate). When the diet is rich in fish oils the type of eicosanoids formed lead to reduced ?stickiness’ or aggregation of blood platelets and so reduce the risk of forming blood clots that lead to heart attack. Studies have shown longer bleeding times in people consuming fish oils. Bleeding times are an indicator of the blood’s tendency to clot and longer bleeding times, as seen in Inuit populations, are linked with lower risk of heart disease.
- BLOOD PRESSURE – High blood pressure is well known as a risk factor for heart disease. Fish oils have a small effect on blood pressure, with some studies showing a reduction of diastolic blood pressure by up to 4mm Hg. Fish oil is estimated to have a blood pressure lowering effect of -0.35 to -0.66 mmHg per gram of n-3 per day. It should be noted that the effect of the Omega-3 fats on blood pressure is greater in hypertensive than normotensive subjects and is not considered clinically significant.
- ARTHRITIS – Arthritis is the most common disease in the world and most people will be affected at some stage in their lives by arthritis. There are over 200 kinds of arthritis, though the two commonest types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting about 1 in 7 people. Some studies have shown improvement in symptoms in patients taking fish oils, but these have been inconsistent. There is some evidence that Omega-3 fats may reduce the level of cartilage-degrading enzymes in patients with OA which may help to prevent loss of cartilage, ultimately preventing OA. However, more research is needed. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is the second most common form of arthritis in which several joints can be affected. It is usually accompanied by marked inflammation, the joint being hot, swollen, painful and tender. A regular intake of fish oils has shown to reduce both the number of tender joints and the amount of morning stiffness with RA, with some studies showing an increase in grip strength. On average it seems to take about 12 weeks for the benefits of fish oil to be seen.
- INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE – A less known fact is that as well as having lower levels of heart disease, the Inuit population also have very low incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Omega-3 fats have been suggested as a potential treatment for IBD because of their anti-inflammatory properties. There have been numerous studies examining the effect of Omega-3 fats on the course of IBD, many showing improvements in disease activity scores, improvement in inflammatory markers and increased remission times. Results have been more encouraging for patients with ulcerative colitis than for patients with Crohn’s disease but it is an area of continuing research.
- PREGNANCY & LACTATION – Oil rich fish, such as herring and mackerel, are a good source of Omega-3 fats which are vital for development so women who are pregnant, should ensure they have good intakes of oil-rich fish to ensure sufficient DHA for the development of the baby’s brain, eyes and nerves. A good fish intake is also important while breastfeeding. It is recommended that whilst pregnant or breastfeeding you limit your intake of predatory fish such as tuna, swordfish or marlin.
- ADHA – recent studies have shown that supplementing ADHD children with DHA (found in fish oils) reduces their behavioural problems, improves their reading ability and the dyspraxia often associated with ADHD; however more studies are needed to confirm these effects.
- DYSLEXIA – Dyslexia is a widespread condition characterised by difficulty with learning and moving skills. A role for Omega-3 fats has been proposed in the aetiology of dyslexia and a number of studies have examined the effects of n-3 fats on this condition. Studies have shown some improvement in dark adaption and scotopic vision, both indicators of visual processing dyslexia. There is a possibility that dyslexia results from a genetic disorder of fatty acid metabolism. However, to date studies have been small and inconsistent and further studies are required before recommendations can be made.
- DEPRESSION – Epidemiological studies have shown that where fish consumption is common, depression is uncommon, and vice-versa. Other studies have shown that the levels of long chain Omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) in blood of depressed people are lower in those with more severe depression. One study has reported results on the use of Omega-3 supplements in the treatment of depression. Severely depressed, suicidal patients were treated with very large doses of fish oil. After 4 months of treatment the benefits to the patients treated with fish oil were so great, that the trial was stopped prematurely, on the grounds that it would have been unethical to deny the placebo group the benefits of fish oil! Another trial using lower doses of fish oils found improvements in the number of markers of depression including anxiety, sleep and suicidality. This remains an area of ongoing research.
- LUNG HEALTH – Epidemiological studies examining the role of Omega-3 fats in lung health have found some improvements in children with asthma where fish oils were included in the diet but the same effect has not been found in adults. An analysis of the first U.S National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 994 found that those with higher fish consumption had a higher expiratory volume, indicating better lung health when compared to those not eating fish. This suggests that fish may have a protective role in long term lung health.
- SKIN HEALTH – Omega-3 fats play a role in boosting the skin’s ability to protect itself from environmental factors such as UV damage but may also play a role in skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) and psoriasis. Several studies have shown beneficial effects of increasing intakes of fish oils on both these conditions with reductions in itching, scaling and size of lesions.
- OTHERS – Omega-3 fats are currently being investigated for a role in preventing the proliferation of tumours, in preventing the onset of type 1 diabetes and for delaying or preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes. Omega-3 Fats may also play a role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
- VARIETY – with many, many species of seafood to choose, mealtimes should never be dull.
- TASTE – Unlike other proteins, the variation in taste and texture between species of seafood is impressive. Be sure to try something new – you could be pleasantly surprised!
- REGAL FISH SUPPLIES – A reliable and convenient service helping to ensure your diet is graced with the best quality seafood on a regular basis.
- IN A NUTSHELL – Omega-3 Fats have been shown to have many health benefits, particularly with regard to heart disease. The wide ranging effects of Omega-3 fats in the systems of the body have led to the investigation to the role of these fats in many different diseases and conditions. Early results are promising for many, although a great deal more research is needed to confirm results before strong recommendations can be made for most. Fish provides not only the Omega-3 fats but a wealth of other vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are important for a healthy body. Without doubt, eating fish is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and, while we wait for the results of studies in other areas, it remains prudent, for good health, to eat fish regularly as part of a well balanced diet – there’s certainly no denying the mouth-watering flavours and variety you can gain from a seafood diet.
Bord Lascaigh Mhara/Irish Fisheries Board. Nutritional Aspects of Fish.