There is a large body of evidence that suggests that there are numerous health benefits associated with the consumption of oily fish. Research shows that consuming oily fish helps protect against cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, age-related vision loss and dementia.
Researchers began to study the health benefits of oily fish after it was observed that Eskimos, who mostly eat only oily fish, had fewer incidents of heart disease and stroke. Oily fish such as salmon, eel, sardines, mackerel and tuna are packed with Vitamin D, protein, B Vitamins and selenium.
Oily fish is a rich source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, a kind of fat that’s good for health. Oily fish are the most popular sources of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), namely, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Other varieties of fish also contain these fatty acids, but the levels are much lower.
Eating one portion (140 grams) of white fish and one portion of oily fish per week is recommended to reap its benefits.
Reduced Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Population groups that consume more oily fish have low rates of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Studies have shown that the fatty oils in fish help alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
A study published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases suggests that long-term intake of fatty fish may cut the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by over 50 percent.
Prevention of Heart Disease
Studies have shown that fatty fish oils can thwart the harmful effects of stress on the heart. Consuming oily fish lowers blood pressure and reduces fat build-up in the arteries.
It helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and raises the chances of surviving a heart attack. Eating oily fish lowers the level of triglycerides in the blood – high levels are linked to heart disease.
Prevention of Cancer
Long-term oily fish consumption may help prevent early- and late-stage oral and skin cancers. A study found that omega-3 fatty acid selectively inhibits the development of malignant and pre-malignant cells, without affecting healthy cells.
A long-term study also showed that men who didn’t consume any fish had between double and treble the risk of suffering from prostate cancer, compared to men who ate moderate or large amounts of fish.
A study found that in brain cells exposed to high levels of alcohol, a fish oil compound was hepful in protecting against inflammation and neuronal cell death. Brain cells that were exposed to a combination of fish oil and alcohol had 90 percent less neuroinflammation and neuronal cell death than in the cells exposed to alcohol alone. Long-term intake of fatty fish may cut the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by over 50 percent.
Promotion of Infants’ Sensory, Mental, and Motor Development
A study found that consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids during the last months of pregnancy has positive effects on a child’s sensory, cognitive, and motor development. The benefits of eating fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines outweigh the possible risks even during pregnancy.
DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, can protect elderly people from vision loss. Studies have suggested that eating oily fish two or more times a week may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of blindness in elderly people.