When fish isn’t good for your health

May 17, 2011
Volume 08    |   Issue 21

It’s widely known that fish is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It’s high in omega-3 fatty acids — fats that protect against stroke and heart disease. But if you think that fish is always protective, you’re wrong. It may begin as a beneficial food, but how you prepare the fish determines whether it’s likely to contribute to your health or destroy it.

We’ve known for some time that fried food, including fried fish, leads to heart attacks. That’s because fish loses its healthful properties and becomes a time bomb when it’s dipped in batter and deep-fried. And the culprit isn’t in the batter. It’s in the oil, which destroys the omega-3 fats. And now a new study suggests fried fish causes more than heart attacks. It can cause a stroke!

That’s what researchers at Atlanta’s Emory University found. They published their study of over 20,000 southerners in the journal Neurology (December 2010). Fried fish is a popular and regularly consumed food throughout the south. The regions where people ate the most fried fish and the least omega-3-rich fatty fish (like salmon, tuna, and halibut) had the highest incidence of stroke and death.

One reason for this is that when you reheat oils they become rancid and produce harmful free radicals. Fried fish, French fries, and donuts are just a few of the foods that are filled with free radicals. It takes a tremendous amount of antioxidants (found in fresh fruits and vegetables) to counteract the oxidized fats in just one serving of a deep fried food. If you eat fried foods regularly, you’re raising your risk for numerous health problems.

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For anyone who loves crispy fried fish, does this mean you can’t eat it anymore? If you eat it occasionally, you’ll probably be okay. But make sure you fry it in a little fresh olive oil. And dispose of the oil once you’re done. Don’t use it twice. And be careful not to eat it too often, as it could lead to stroke and even death.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


"Racial and geographic differences in fish consumption — The REGARDS Study." F. Nahab, MD, A. Le, S. Judd, M.R. Frankel, J. Ard, MD, P.K. Newby, ScD, MPH, MS and V.J. Howard, PhD. Neurology December 22, 2010 DOI 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182061afb.

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