Is Eating Fish Beneficial?

Smoked hilsa cooked with mustard seed in Dhaka.

Yes ,is the answer if you want to reduce your risk for cerebrovascular disease (what is called stroke in general terms). In a recent study published in the British Medical Journal it was reported that higher fish consumption is associated with a moderate but significant reduced risk of incident cerebrovascular disease. The results of the study are in line with the nutritional guidelines laid down by the American Heart Association in 2009 and the Fourth Joint Task Force of European Society of Cardiology and Other societies in 2007 which can be broadly summarised as “fish consumption for all; and intake of fish oils, preferably from oily fish, to people with pre-existing or at high risk of coronary heart disease”

The study analysed

“226 prospective cohort studies and 12 randomised controlled trials with aggregate data on 794 000 non-overlapping people and 34,817 cerebrovascular outcomes .”

And concluded

Available observational data indicate moderate, inverse associations of fish consumption and long chain omega 3 fatty acids with cerebrovascular risk. Long chain omega 3 fatty acids measured as circulating biomarkers in observational studies or supplements in primary and secondary prevention trials were not associated with cerebrovascular disease. The beneficial effect of fish intake on cerebrovascular risk is likely to be mediated through the interplay of a wide range of nutrients abundant in fish.”

This evidently means that while eating fish or fish oil might be beneficial consuming fish oil supplements (long chain omega 3 fatty acid supplements) will not have the same beneficial effect for preventing strokes.   The bottom line is that natural fish is helpful and not the supplements of long chain omega 3 fatty acids. Evidently it means the mechanism of the benefit provided by fish is not due to just these long chain omega 3 fatty acids but due to some other reasons. This of course is an open research question now.

Incidentally the lead author of the study from Cambridge, Rajiv Chowdhury is a Bengali (not from West Bengal though but from Bangladesh). Does that mean Bengalis who are ardent “mach-bhaat” eaters are at lesser risk of cerebrovascular incident  ? That is one research idea  for Chowdhury et al to consider.

Note for those who do not know the meaning of “mach-bhaat” – It is the combination of rice and fish considered an absolute necessity in the daily diet of Bengalis.

References: Everything in quotes is from the original study published in British Medical Journal titled “Association between fish consumption, long chain omega 3 fatty acids, and risk of cerebrovascular Disease: systematic review and meta-analysis” (Open Access)

Image Courtesy : Wikipedia licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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One thought on “Is Eating Fish Beneficial?

  1. Rajiv Chowdhury says:

    I liked your interesting review of our paper – thanks. Not sure though how much our Mach-bhat would help in Bengal though, as our traditional cooking method is probably less optimum to keep any benefits intact and our fish often contaminated with metals like Arsenic or preservatives like Formalin. Rajiv, Cambridge

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