The Friday Fish Fry is Toast!

May 27, 2011

The Friday Fish Fry is Toast! 

Competency: Good Fats Reference:  Circulation: Heart Failure Belin et al from UCLA  May 25, 2011 

Everyone should eat more fish right?  It reduces heart disease, right?  Wrong!!! Oops!  There is nuance.  If you follow 85,000 post-menopausal women for 10 years you can find some interesting data about how people eat and what impact that has on their subsequent health.  Taking women who eat fish five times a week or more, and compare them to those who eat fish rarely or not at all, you will find a 30% difference in heart failure.  Not heart attack, but heart failure.  

Heart failure kills 20% of folks within a year of the diagnosis, so it is a nasty diagnosis and can result in a life of disability with shortness of breath, inability to walk upstairs or exercise, and all-around limited activity.  The women who ate more dark fish had 30% less heart failure.  That’s good.  Considering 5,000,000 Americans have heart failure, this has implications for a lot of us. But the beneficial effects of eating fish worked ONLY for those who ate their fish baked or broiled, not fried. 

 If it was fried the benefit not only vanished, but the effect was WORSE.  And the real benefit came from eating darker fish like salmon, mackerel, and bluefish, not from whiter fish like tuna, sole, and cod.  Atlantic salmon contains between three and six times the amount of omega fats as does cod or sole, so it may be the omega fats.  The researchers focused on omega fats with extra questionnaires and found some surprises.  In this study, the benefit of omega fats by themselves were not as remarkable as the whole fish. 

 But what does that say for the fish fry of cod on Friday night?  Milwaukee lives for its Friday night fish-fries.  This study showed that ONE serving of fried fish a week increased the risk of heart failure 48%.  Not decease, increase!  This is a problem.  Could it be the French fries that come along with the fried fish?  Could it be the fats it is fried in?  All may be true.  But it argues for the baked option on Friday night instead of the fried. What’s the explanation?  I think there is an issue with the higher heat of frying.  

Omega fats are delicate little critters that are chemically altered quite easily.  The higher heat of frying could really alter omega fats into trans fats of various kinds.  Baking and broiling can be higher heat too so that may not be all of it.  I think another possible explanation is that the oils used for frying are often vegetable oils that are heavy on omega-6’s.  These are precursor molecules to inflammatory eicosanoids.  It may be the higher intake of omega 6’s is harmful. 

 WWW: What Will Work for Me?  Oh well.  Can’t use the fish fry as my excuse for getting more fish.  That’s one of my favorite Friday night things to do.  Time to check out the places that have broiled or baked fish, and then only if they have mackerel or salmon, because cod doesn’t do it either.  It just doesn’t work for me to stay at home and eat sardines out of a can.  So focus here:  darker fish like salmon, mackerel or bluefish, and then it has to be broiled or baked.  Make it zesty with a blackening but not frying.  The day of the fish fry needs to fade away, unless you want to fade first.   Written by John Whitcomb, MD

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