The health benefits of fish

Fish consumption has been well-documented for its many health benefits. These include improving biomarkers associated with cardiovascular disease. In a study looking at the long-term effects of fish consumption over a period of thirty years in the elderly in Greece, eating fish once per week resulted in decreased blood pressure, fasting glucose, total serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels.1

There is also research that shows that eating fish regularly could have a role in preventing and improving metabolic syndrome. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines metabolic syndrome as the most dangerous heart attack risk factor. These include diabetes and prediabetes, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

In a 2014 review in Diabetology and Metabolic Syndrome, the authors found that fish consumption may prevent or improve metabolic health and may have a protective role in metabolic syndrome prevention.2

Eating fish or fish oil can also help to decrease body weight. In another 2014 review, the authors found that participants eating fish or fish oil lost more weight and body fat and had a larger reduction in waist circumference than the controls.3

There is evidence that fish consumption can increase the gray matter of the brain, which constitutes most of the brain and is involved in functions like memory and processing information. This helps to protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Some observational studies have found that eating fish can contribute to less cognitive decline.4,5

A review in the journal Nutrients showed that moderate consumption of fish throughout pregnancy outweighed potential detrimental effects in regards to fetal neurodevelopment. Eating one to two servings of fish per week was associated with better offspring neurodevelopment outcomes.6

Important nutrients found in fish

Fish and seafood are naturally rich in omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A and D, protein and minerals such as selenium, zinc, and iodine.

Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that cannot be made by the body. Therefore, they need to be taken from the diet. They are an important part of cell membranes and work together with hormones that regulate blood clotting and inflammation. They also affect receptors in cells that regulate genetic function.7

There are two types of omega 3 fatty acids that are present in fish. These are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

It is the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish that are responsible for the cardioprotective, anti-neurodegenerative, weight maintenance and anti-inflammatory effects of fish on human health.

Fish contains important minerals and macronutrients for health

Zinc

Zinc is an essential trace element that is necessary for proper immune functioning, growth and repair, hormonal balance and digestive health. It acts as a powerful antioxidant and has a therapeutic role in acute diarrhoea in children, Wilson’s disease (a disease in which there is an abundance of copper), the common cold and the prevention of night blindness.8

Zinc deficiency is quite common worldwide because of modern processed diets and decreasing intestinal health. One symptom of zinc deficiency is hair loss. Zinc has the ability to affect skin health and can cause alopecia in individuals with hypothyroidism. There was a case study done on a woman with hypothyroidism, scaly lesions on the skin and severe hair loss. Zinc supplementation was able to get rid of the scaly lesions in one month and completely re-grow the patient’s hair in four months.9

Selenium

Selenium is another essential trace mineral that has potent antioxidant properties. It is essential for optimal thyroid health, protects cells from excess hydrogen peroxide, removes heavy metals from the body, and regulates the immune and reproductive systems.10

Protein

Fish is an excellent source of protein. Protein is used in every cell in the body and is essential for muscle growth and repair, enhanced immune function, hormonal regulation, healthy skin, and hair, balancing blood sugar and supporting neurological function.

Collagen is a type of protein that is responsible for younger-looking skin. After a certain age, collagen is not produced by the body and it needs to be sourced from the diet. Bone broth, which is a good source of collagen, can be made from the bones of fish. Using a fish base to make a bone broth is a great way to increase collagen in the diet and to replenish skin’s elasticity and lustre.

Important types of fish and seafood for health


Benefits of eating fish and seafood for the skin

The skin is the largest organ of the body and contains the most omega-3 fatty acids.

There has been some research to show that fish oils can help to maintain healthy skin and to help with certain skin conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis.17

Nutrition recommendations for fish and seafood consumption:

  • Choose to eat fish or seafood instead of taking supplements. Although the consumption of omega-3 supplements has been controversial, the consumption of fish and seafood and its many health benefits has been well documented. In addition to omega 3 fatty acids, fish and seafood are rich in protein, vitamins A, and D, antioxidants and minerals such as zinc and selenium. Therefore, eating wild-caught fish and seafood two to three times a week is recommended for optimal health.

  • Eat olive oil with your fish. Two of the reasons the Mediterranean diet is touted for its many health benefits are the high consumption of fish and the frequent use of olive oil. Feel free to add one to two tablespoons of olive oil to fish. The antioxidants found in olive oil may help to protect against any oxidative damage from omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Choose fish or seafood frequently for protein and nutrient-density. Fish provides a rich source of protein, which is instrumental to building and maintaining healthy skin. Bone broth can be made from fish bones to enhance collagen formation, which increases the elasticity of the skin and keeps it looking younger. Fish and seafood also contain zinc, which is therapeutic to the skin as well as selenium, which is a powerful antioxidant that destroys free radicals that cause damage to the skin.

  • Choose clams, oysters, and mussels regularly. In addition to fish, it is just as important to include other forms of seafood in the diet as well. Bivalves provide important trace minerals to the diet, which boost the immune system, fight free radicals and optimize thyroid function. Include them in your diet one to two times per week.

Fish and seafood are a very important part of a varied and nutrient-dense diet. These foods offer rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, antioxidants and trace minerals like zinc and selenium. All of these nutrients help to protect and enhance skin health.


References and Sources:

  1. Panagiotakos, Demosthenes B., Akis Zeimbekis, Vassiliki Boutziouka, Mary Economou, Georgia Kourlaba, Pavlos Toutouzas, and Evangelos Polychronopoulos. “Long-term fish intake is associated with better lipid profile, arterial blood pressure, and blood glucose levels in elderly people from Mediterranean islands (MEDIS epidemiological study).”Medical science monitor 13, no. 7 (2007): CR307-CR312. http://www.medscimonit.com/abstract/index/idArt/487376 [Accessed February 19th, 2017]
  2. Tørris, Christine, Marianne Molin, and Milada Cvancarova Småstuen. “Fish consumption and its possible preventive role on the development and prevalence of metabolic syndrome-a systematic review.”Diabetology & metabolic syndrome 6, no. 1 (2014): 112. https://dmsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1758-5996-6-112 [Accessed February 19th, 2017]
  3. Bender, Nicole, M. Portmann, Z. Heg, Karen Hofmann, Marcel Zwahlen, and Matthias Egger. “Fish or n3-PUFA intake and body composition: a systematic review and meta-“Obesity reviews 15, no. 8 (2014): 657-665. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/obr.12189/full [Accessed February 19th, 2017]
  4. Morris, Martha Clare, Denis A. Evans, Christine C. Tangney, Julia L. Bienias, and Robert S. Wilson. “Fish consumption and cognitive decline with age in a large community study.”Archives of neurology 62, no. 12 (2005): 1849-1853. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/790080 [Accessed February 19th, 2017]
  5. Raji, Cyrus A., Kirk I. Erickson, Oscar L. Lopez, Lewis H. Kuller, H. Michael Gach, Paul M. Thompson, Mario Riverol, and James T. Becker. “Regular fish consumption and age-related brain gray matter loss.”American journal of preventive medicine 47, no. 4 (2014): 444-451. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379714002578 [Accessed February 19th, 2017]
  6. Starling, Phoebe, Karen Charlton, Anne T. McMahon, and Catherine Lucas. “Fish intake during pregnancy and foetal neurodevelopment—A systematic review of the evidence.”Nutrients 7, no. 3 (2015): 2001-2014. http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/3/2001/htm [Accessed February 19th, 2017]
  7. Omega-3 fatty acids: An Essential Contribution https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3-fats/ [Accessed February 19th, 2017]
  8. Prasad, Ananda S. “Impact of the discovery of human zinc deficiency on health.”Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology 28, no. 4 (2014): 357-363. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jtemb.2014.09.002 [Accessed February 19th, 2017]
  9. Betsy, Ambooken, M. P. Binitha, and S. Sarita. “Zinc deficiency associated with hypothyroidism: an overlooked cause of severe alopecia.”International journal of trichology 5, no. 1 (2013): 40. http://ijtrichology.com/article.asp?issn=0974-7753;year=2013;volume=5;issue=1;spage=40;epage=42;aulast=Betsy [Accessed February 19th, 2017]
  10. Kieliszek, Marek, and Stanislaw Blazejak. “Current knowledge on the importance of selenium in food for living organisms: a review.”Molecules21, no. 5 (2016): 609. http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/21/5/609/htm [Accessed February 19th, 2017]
  11. Lara, Jose J., Maria Economou, A. Michael Wallace, Anne Rumley, Gordon Lowe, Christine Slater, Muriel Caslake, Naveed Sattar, and Michael EJ Lean. “Benefits of salmon eating on traditional and novel vascular risk factors in young, non-obese healthy subjects.”Atherosclerosis193, no. 1 (2007): 213-221. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2006.06.018 [Accessed February 22nd, 2017]
  12. What’s New and Beneficial about Salmon http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=104 [Accessed February 22nd, 2017]
  13. Walz, Courtney P., Arden R. Barry, and Sheri L. Koshman. “Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.”Canadian Pharmacists Journal/Revue des Pharmaciens du Canada149, no. 3 (2016): 166-173. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4860748/  [Accessed February 22nd , 2017]
  14. Venturini, Danielle, Andréa Name Colado Simão, Mariana Ragassi Urbano, and Isaias Dichi. “Effects of extra virgin olive oil and fish oil on lipid profile and oxidative stress in patients with metabolic syndrome.”Nutrition31, no. 6 (2015): 834-840. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2014.12.016 [Accessed February 22nd, 2017]
  15. Is Krill Oil 48 Times Better Than Fish Oil? http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/08/14/is-krill-oil-48-times-better-than-fish-oil.aspx [Accessed February 22nd, 2017]
  16. Oysters, Clams, and Mussels, Oh My! Nutrition Powerhouses or Toxic Danger? https://www.thepaleomom.com/oysters-clams-and-mussels-oh-my-nutrition-powerhouses-or-toxic-danger/ [Accessed February 22nd, 2017]
  17. Bittiner SB, Tucker WF, Cartwright I, and Bleehen SS. “A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of fish in psoriasis.”Lancet 8582 no. 1 (1988): 378-380. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2893189 [Accessed February 22nd, 2017]

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