Animals In Print
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10 July 2010 Issue

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Fishing For Facts

"Study showed that plant oils reduced the risk of a secondary heart attack by at least twice that of fish oils! "


People are encouraged to believe that a healthy diet is one which includes fish. The reason being that some fish contain the types of good’ fat that our bodies need. There is a widespread misconception amongst the general public and health professionals that fish is the only source of these good fats.

There are two reasons why these incorrect ideas have become so well established

First, much has been made of the healthiness of the Mediterranean diet, which is based on generous servings of fruits and vegetables, cereals and olive oil and where fish is served in preference to meat or dairy products. Mealtimes tend to be very social and this may have profound implications for health.

Second, a number of studies have examined the effect of fish in helping to prevent a second heart attack in people who have already had one attack and these show some protection benefits.

Fats in the Diet
There’s a lot of confusion about fat and diet, but the truth is that our bodies can’t function without it. Eating the right kind of fat is, however crucial. What we don’t need are saturated fats, found mainly in meat, dairy and animal products, but also in many
processed foods. These are strongly linked to high blood cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, cornary heart disease, some cancers and other degenerative diseases.
We do need unsaturated fats - especially polyunsaturated fats .

Within polyunsaturated fats are substances called essential fatty acids, or EFAs - namely omega-6 (linoleic acid - LA) and omega-3 fats (linolenic acid - LNA). Although olive oil is not an EFA it is another type of unsaturated fat which has some healthy properties and it is good to include it in the diet. EFAs - particularly the
omega-3 fats - help keep the heart healthy.

Fish is a source of EFAs, particularly omega-3 fats, but not all fish contain them. Those that do are principally oily fish such as herring, salmon, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna. White fish, such as cod, haddock and plaice, don’t and nor does tinned tuna.

However, the richest sources of omega-3 fats are not fish at all butlants. Seed oils such as linseed (flax) and rapeseed (canola) as well as soya oil are rich sources as are seeds and nuts themselves - particularly walnuts (1). Green leafy vegetables are also a source

(2). Omega-3 and Heart Disease It’s been known for a long time that people whose diet is based largely on fish and is rich in omega-3 have low rates of heart disease.This led researchers to investigate whether giving fish to people who had already suffered a heart attack would prevent them from having another attack. These are ‘secondary prevention trials’ and two of the largest are the DART and GISSI trials, which both used fish-based omega-3 fats. They did show a reduced risk, but much less publicised was the LYON trial, which used plant oils as a source of omega-3
fats. The results of this study showed that plant oils reduced the risk of a secondary heart attack by at least twice that of fish oils!

DART Trial

It found that males who had been advised to eat as much as 400g oily fish per week showed a reduction of almost 30 per cent in mortality (death) over two years. Although there were fewer fatal heart attacks, the total number of heart attacks wasn’t reduced. Its thought that fish oils help to normalize heartbeat rhythms and
prevent blood from becoming too sticky and ‘clumping’

(3).Despite this apparent reduction in risk, a follow-up study 10 years later found there were no long-term survival benefits

(4).GISSI Trial This trial looked at people on a Mediterranean diet who had had a
heart attack and survived it. Fish oil supplements equivalent to a whopping 100g of oily fish per day were given and showed a 20 per cent reduction in mortality

(5). LYON Trial This was another secondary prevention trial, but instead of fish or fish oils, plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids were used. Amazingly, "a 70 percent reduction in mortality was achieved - more than double that ofthe fish trials! There was also a significant reduction in coronary ‘events’ and these protective effects were found to start quickly "

(6).Four years on, patients were still following the diet and their hearts were still being protected

(7). Subsequent studies have confirmed the power of plant omega-3 fatty acids in protecting the heart

(8,9). Plant Oils Better than Fish Oils,Comparing the three main trials shows that:
• plant oils are far more effective than fish oils in reducing the chance of cardiac death in high-risk patients; • plant oils reduce the risk of dying from secondary heart attack by more than double that of fish oils; • plant oils reduce the number of painful, non-fatal heart attacks; • there are long-term survival benefits from consuming plant oils.

No Gain for Low-Risk The trials we’ve written about all looked at people who were at
high risk of a heart attack. Because people are termed ‘low-risk’, it doesn’t mean they will never have an attack, it simply means they are further down the risk scale. They are those who eat low levels of saturated fat and therefore can include vegetarians and vegans

(10,11). When researchers looked at low-risk groups they found that eating fish had no effect on reducing their chances of dying from a heart attack

(12).Toxins in Fish. Human beings have been so successful at spreading pollution that environmental contamination is widespread and all oceans now contain
toxic chemicals. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are now part of most food chains and they become more concentrated the higher up the chain you go. Mercury, organ ophosphates, PCBs, dioxins, and radioactive pollution in some fish, are all highly toxic to life.

Fatty foods have a tendency to ‘soak’ up toxins and so oily fish are particularly prone to absorbing them - the toxins are actually stored.

This should make it easy to recognize that a plant based diet rich in the proper foods discussed above is the only healthy choice for those concerned about heart disease and maintaining a healthy diet, body and lifestyle.

Finally fishing, always presented as a fun family sport, a humane sport, is anything but kind. Please watch this video to learn how immensely fish suffer being part of our food chain.

Fish Are Friends, Not Food

Fish Are Friends, Not Food

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Please send comments and submittals to the Editor: Linda Beane [email protected]

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