Best of Fishy MedicineFebruary 9, 2011 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.
One of the most powerful natural health concepts I know of is to: 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 current studies that are featured in the medical literature:
- 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)
- 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)
- The May 2010 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)
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)
Update: February 2011 – I’ve noticed that increased awareness about environmental toxins is frequently making its way into the “fish as health food” debate. As is often the case, there’s some evidence underlying the concerns expressed by consumers and health care experts alike. It’s true that our waterways are exposed to a greater number of questionable chemicals than ever before. But the implications need to be examined closely. For instance, research from both Canada and Europe concedes that regular fish consumption can lead to higher levels of chlorinated pesticides and mercury in humans. However, the human body is quite resilient and this added chemical burden doesn’t necessarily mean that poor health will follow. The current issue of the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging presents an illustration. The eating habits of 3,380 mothers were carefully analyzed during the first trimester. No association between fatty fish, lean fish or shellfish intake and fetal growth or neonatal complications was discovered. What also needs to be taken into account is the overall risk-benefit balance of fish or any other dietary component. Study after study indicates that those who eat more fish appear to be protected from a variety of age-related health threats including certain forms of cancer, dementia and kidney disease. This cannot and should not be discounted when considering whether to include fish in your diet. The bottom line is that fish offers too much promise to simply abandon indiscriminately. Instead I think it’s best to select the cleanest possible fish available and/or to supplement with purified sources of omega-3 fatty acids. (9,10,11,12,13,14,15)
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!
Tags: ADHD, Depression, Fish
Posted in Children's Health, Detoxification, Mental Health