Fishy Medicine

June 2, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The way you perceive things can dramatically influence the results you find. I think many people accept this concept as true to some extent. But how many of us actually keep this philosophy in mind when applying it in practical terms? For example – when psychiatrists throughout the world prescribe a medication for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or clinical depression, most patients are inclined to believe that it will relieve their symptoms. However, would the same mindset hold true if a physician “prescribed” eating more fish or supplementing with fish oil for the same conditions? Setting aside the relative efficacy of the respective treatments, it’s important to understand that the way you think about any given therapy is likely to affect the outcome – for better or for worse.

Normally I post a Healthy Monday column at the start of each week. Because of Monday’s Memorial Day holiday, I’m presenting this week’s health promoting tip today instead, which is a simple piece of advice: think of food and supplements as serious medicine. Don’t just dismiss them as something we all need to sustain our bodies. Food is so much more than that. There are naturally occurring chemicals in everyday foods that can promote healing in ways that medications cannot. What’s more, using food to enhance health puts you in the enviable position of protecting your good health so that, eventually, you may not require certain medical interventions at all.

Many health experts consider fish a superfood. Chief among its attributes are two omega-3 fatty acids, DHA or docosahexaenoic acid and EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid, which appear to influence the human body and brain in some positive and specific ways. This is illustrated in several new studies that are featured in the medical literature:

  1. Recently, a group of 92 children with ADHD was given a placebo or 500 mg of EPA over a 15 week period. Those receiving the fish oil demonstrated improvements in ADHD symptoms as measured by the Conners’ Parent/Teacher Rating Scale. The kids classified as “oppositional” exhibited the greatest reduction in undesirable symptoms. The concluding remarks of the researchers note that, “Increasing EPA and decreasing omega-6 fatty acid concentrations in phospholipids were related to clinical improvement”. (1)
  2. An examination of 33,623 Swedish women with varying degrees of “psychotic-like symptoms” determined that eating fish regularly significantly lowered the incidence of “high level symptoms”. The risk of such symptoms was 53% higher in women who didn’t eat fish at all as compared to those consuming fish 3 to 4 times a week. As a side note, women with the highest Vitamin D intake demonstrated a 37% reduced likelihood of psychotic characteristics. Certain species of fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines are excellent sources of Vitamin D. (2,3)
  3. The May 24th issue of the International Journal of Cancer reports that DHA is capable of delaying the development and inhibiting the growth of neuroblastomas in an animal model. This is a form of cancer that takes root in nerve tissue of infants and young children. Previous laboratory investigations suggest that DHA can lead to the selective death or apoptosis of neuroblastoma cells. The next line of inquiry will be “studies aiming at a clinical application in children with high-risk neuroblastoma”. (4,5)
DHA May Contribute to Improved Mental Development and Mental Health
Source: Am J Clin Nutr 89: 958S-962S, 2009. (link)

Many people would likely benefit from the inclusion of more fish in their diet. But not just any fish will do. The April 2010 issue of Eat Well magazine provides a convenient and informative guide to selecting the healthiest seafood for ourselves and the environment.

  • “6 Super Green Fish To Serve” – Albacore Tuna (troll or pole-caught in the US or British Columbia), Mussels & Oysters (farmed), Pink Shrimp & Spot Prawns (wild-caught in British Columbia and Oregon), Rainbow Trout (farmed) and Salmon (wild-caught in Alaska)
  • “6 Threatened Fish to Save” – Bluefin Tuna, Chilean Sea Bass, Groupers, Monkfish, Orange Roughy and Salmon (farmed)

In order to make the “best of” list, certain criteria had to be met, including low levels of select contaminants such as mercury (<216 parts per billion/ppb) and PCBs (<11 ppb). In addition, these fish are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are classified as “sustainable”.

Eating a diet that’s abundant in DHA and EPA is essentially a return to form for human beings. Most of our ancestors were very familiar with just this type of menu plan. However, the modern age has brought about a significant shift in what we eat. The past few centuries have also shuttled in a number of health concerns that weren’t nearly as prevalent in previous generations. The reasons for this documented decline in health are many. But few medical experts disagree that diet and lifestyle considerations are pivotal factors in this downward spiral. Thankfully, diet and lifestyle can be modified. Now that’s my idea of serious medicine. (6,7,8)

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Children's Health, Food and Drink, Mental Health

6 Comments & Updates to “Fishy Medicine”

  1. Suzanne Says:

    You are absolutely spot on. I agree with your point about a doctor prescribing salmon or fish oil. I found some absolutely fascinating information at which reinforces your point about the benefits of DHA. I found your article so interesting that I forwarded it to several friends.

    Looking forward to more posts like this.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Suzanne! 馃檪

    Be well!


  3. dorothydauphinee Says:

    i came to this article from a posting on twitter about diabetes but nothing was mentioned in the areticle !

  4. JP Says:


    I’m sorry for the confusion. I meant “More Info” about the health benefits of fish and fish oil.

    In my Twitter posts, I try to add something extra (in the form of a link) to the original news stories in order to share more positive information.

    PS – Please check back later today if you’re interested in diabetes. I plan to post more detailed information about natural ways to protect against it.

    Be well!


  5. dorothydauphinee Says:

    please excuse previous note i found what i was looking for

  6. JP Says:

    Update 06/17/15:

    Br J Nutr. 2015 Jun 16:1-8.

    Dietary intakes of fats, fish and nuts and olfactory impairment in older adults.

    It is unclear whether lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes, should be advocated to prevent olfactory dysfunction. We investigated the association between dietary intakes of fats (saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and cholesterol) and related food groups (nuts, fish, butter, margarine) with olfactory impairment. There were 1331 and 667 participants (older than 60 years) at baseline and 5-year follow-up, respectively, with complete olfaction and dietary data. Dietary data were collected using a validated semi-quantitative FFQ. Olfaction was measured using the San Diego Odor Identification Test. In a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data, those in the highest v. lowest quartile of n-6 PUFA intake had reduced odds of having any olfactory impairment, multivariable-adjusted OR 0路66 (95 % CI 0路44, 0路97), P for trend = 0路06. Participants in the highest v. lowest quartile of margarine consumption had a 65 % reduced odds of having moderate/severe olfactory impairment (P for trend = 0路02). Participants in the highest quartile compared to the lowest quartile (reference) of nut consumption had a 46 % (P for trend = 0路01) and 58 % (P for trend = 0路001) reduced odds of having any or mild olfactory impairment, respectively. Older adults in the highest v. lowest quartile of fish consumption had 35 % (P for trend = 0路03) and 50 % (P for trend = 0路01) reduced likelihood of having any or mild olfactory impairment, respectively. In longitudinal analyses, a marginally significant association was observed between nut consumption and incidence of any olfactory impairment, highest v. lowest quartile of nut consumption: OR 0路61 (95 % CI 0路37, 1路00). Older adults with the highest consumption of nuts and fish had reduced odds of olfactory impairment, independent of potential confounding variables.

    Be well!


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