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Fish Facts

Should you be hooked on fish? Over the years studies have found fish is swimming with heart healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, but other studies warn some fish contains mercury and pollutants that can have sinking health effects.

"Customers have difficulty in making choices in terms of seafood because they've received fragmented information," says Dr. Nicolas Stettler of the Institute of Medicine.

Now two major reports are trying to straighten out this fish tale. After reviewing the evidence both conclude on the whole, the health benefits of fish outweigh the risks. Dr. Nicolas Stettler work on the Institute of Medicine study.

"On average Americans should eat seafood at least twice a week," says Dr. Stettler.

And remember, different fish offer different risks and rewards. Wild salmon, albacore tuna and shark all provide benefits to the heart. But the shark and tuna have higher levels of mercury. Because of that, researchers suggest children and pregnant women only eat up to four 3 oz. servings of fish a week, avoid fish with more mercury like shark and swordfish, and limit albacore tuna to only two servings a week. As for healthy adolescents and adults, the best advice is to eat fish in moderation.

"You also want to eat a variety of fish so you're not exposing yourself to a single high level contaminant, in a single type of fish," says Samantha Heller of the NYU School of Medicine.

So when it comes to the health benefits of fish, you can take the bait, just don't fall hook line and sinker.

CBS News


Preserving your vision

There's good news and bad in the latest lifespan figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The good news is we're living longer. The average life span is now 77 years for men and 83 for women. The bad news is, the older we get the more our bodies deteriorate.

And one thing that tends to go in old age is our vision. The most common cause of vision loss in the elderly is a condition called macular degeneration (MD).

As the name suggests, MD is an age-related degeneration of the macula, a area at the back of the retina with a high concentration of light receptors that gives us our central vision. People with the condition lose their central vision and as the condition progresses, find they can't read, recognise faces, or drive. It affects one person in three over the age of 80.

For the first time there seems to be a treatment that can prevent, and maybe even reverse, some of the damage in a small percentage of people. It's called ranibizumab (trade name Lucentis) and it inhibits the growth of blood vessels over the macula that sometimes occurs in the condition.

Treatment has to be ongoing, involves injections into the affected eye every month and costs several thousand dollars per treatment.

Also, it's only effective in the so called 'wet' form of the condition – where tiny blood vessels grow over the macula. In the other 'dry' form –: about ninety per cent of cases – it's ineffective.

So it's not a magic bullet. Fortunately though, there are measures you can take to prevent the condition from occurring in the first place. And there's been a flurry of recent studies published that show how to do it.

Eat fish

Eat fish, say researchers from the University of Sydney's ophthalmology department. They studied nearly 2,900 people aged 49 and older who answered a questionnaire about their diet, and had their retinas photographed as a screening test for macular degeneration.

Those who ate at least one weekly serving of fish were 40 per cent less likely to develop MD during the study, compared to those who reported eating fish less than once a month or not at all.

It's thought the high levels of omega-3 fats in fish have an anti-inflammatory effect and prevent the condition from occurring

Don’t smoke

Researchers from Massachusetts in the US made a similar finding in a group of around 700 elderly World War II veterans who filled out questionnaires about their smoking history, alcohol use, physical activity, diet, and use of multivitamins and supplements. Men with the highest fish consumption (at least two weekly servings) were 45 per cent less likely to have MD than those with the lowest fish consumption (less than one weekly serving).

The researchers also found a link between smoking and MD. Smokers had a 1.9-fold increased risk of MD while those who had smoked in the past had about a 1.7-fold increased risk of MD compared to those who had never smoked.

Antioxidants in the diet

A Dutch study suggests that a diet rich in antioxidants will reduce the risk of developing MD. Researchers looked at about 4000 elderly people in Rotterdam for eight years, observing what they ate, and screened their eyesight along the way.

Those who took vitamin E or zinc in their diet had a significantly reduced risk of developing MD – the more vitamin E or zinc they took, the more they reduced the risk. The biggest benefit was seen in those who took four antioxidants in their diet – vitamin E and zinc, plus beta carotene and vitamin C – those who took all four reduced the risk by 35 per cent. But they had to take these antioxidants in their diet – taking them as dietary supplements, for example as capsules or pills, wasn’t associated with a reduced risk.

Sources of vitamin E include wholegrains, vegetable oil, eggs, nuts. Sources of zinc include meat, poultry, fish, wholegrains, dairy products. Beta carotene is found in carrots, kale, spinach; and vitamin C in citrus fruits and juices, green peppers, broccoli, and potatoes.

Exercise regularly

Lastly, get regular exercise, say researchers from University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in the US. Over 15 year period, they looked at nearly 4,000 men and women between the ages of 43 and 86 for 15 years and found those with an active lifestyle were 70 per cent less likely to develop AMD than those who had a sedentary lifestyle.

So there you have it. Don't smoke, get some exercise and eat a diet rich in fish, grains, vegetables and fruit, and you'll be able to read Barbara Cartland novels well into your eighties.

ABC News


This is your brain - on seafood

For most of their lives they've had as much in common as, well, a research scientist and a chef who happen to be brothers. One earned recognition in the upper reaches of academe; the other has helped put fish back on the table in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Now seafood is their common calling: The chef touts his yellowfin tuna with guacamole and a soy-lemon grass dressing, while the scientist explains his theories that omega-3 fatty acids can help combat dyslexia, hyperactivity and depression.

"He studies it; I sell it," explains Rick Stein, one of Britain's foremost restaurateurs. "I'm the act, and he's the science."

Last year, at London's Royal Institution of Great Britain, they experimented with using Rick's cooking demonstrations to make John's neurophysiology more palatable.

The more famous Rick, 59, is one of a new breed of British celebrity cooks with numerous BBC television shows and at least a dozen cookbooks under his belt. His older -- and, he says, "brainier" -- brother, John, 65, is an Oxford professor whose research suggests that many aspects of our mood and behavior depend upon whether our brains receive the right nutrients -- particularly the omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish, such as salmon, tuna and bluefish.

Rick and John Stein are not strangers to U.S. shores. One of Rick's recent projects was to produce an encyclopedic book of seafood recipes and techniques that would be just as useful in Pembroke Pines as in Padstow, the Cornish fishing port (now dubbed "Padstein") where he runs four restaurants, a seafood cookery school and a 33-bedroom hotel.

The result of that effort, Rick Stein's Complete Seafood, won the James Beard Foundation's 2005 cookbook of the year award. And Rick now concedes that Maine lobsters are every bit as good as the Cornish ones he sells.

Brother John's findings that seafood amounts to a kind of brain food have been a more difficult sell. "I've been accused," he says, "of peddling snake oil" -- a charge he relishes, because snake oil is rich in the very nutrients he views as necessary. Over the past 10 years, a series of clinical trials at Oxford and elsewhere on so-called "neurodevelopmental" diseases -- from dyslexia to schizophrenia -- suggest that some people who are vulnerable to these illnesses show startling improvements after eating diets rich in omega-3.

And while a recent report in the British Medical Journal calls into question the health benefits of fish oils -- and particularly their cardiovascular benefits -- results similar to the ones Stein touts have emerged from mental health studies in this country, including trials at the National Institutes of Health.

So Rick introduces the joys of "fresh fish simply cooked," and John recalls our own semi-aquatic origins. We once lived in a habitat teeming with fish, he says, and the fatty acids they contain were incorporated into our nerve membranes, enabling our brains to function more efficiently and eventually making Homo sapiens the smartest member of the animal kingdom.

It all seems to make so much sense that one cannot help but wonder if the basis for the Steins' current act was formed early on. John the scientist was quick to offer up a hypothesis: Following World War II when food was in short supply, the British government gave free supplements of cod liver oil to pregnant mothers and their children. Chef Rick remembers hating the taste, but their mother dosed them with it anyway. "And that," says John, "is why we're so clever."

Sun Sentinal Florida

Edited by MallacootaPete
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