Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eating More Fried Fish May Contribute to Stroke

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish have been shown to have favorable effects on platelet aggregation, blood pressure, lipid profile, endothelial function, and ischemic stroke risk.

The amount of fish consumed, and preferences for preparation (i.e., fried versus nonfried), vary regionally and by race and may be a factor behind disparities in stroke, according to research published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology (1).

Investigators led, by Fadi Nahab of Emory University in Atlanta, analyzed dietary data for 21,675 people aged 45 and older participating in a study program called REGARDS, for Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke. Of all the people whose records were examined, 21% were from the stroke buckle, 34% from the rest of the states in the stroke belt, and 44% were from other states.

Among the key findings:

  • Only 5,022 (23%) participants consumed ≥2 servings per week of nonfried fish.
  • People living in the stroke buckle were 11% less likely to eat two or more servings of non-fried fish than participants in the rest of the country.
  • People in the rest of the stroke belt were 17% less likely to eat recommended servings of non-fried fish on a weekly basis.
  • African-Americans were more than 3.5 times more likely to eat two or more servings of fried fish weekly than whites. African-Americans ate an average of 0.96 servings weekly of fried fish, compared to 0.47 servings for whites.
  • People in the stroke belt were 30% more likely to eat two or more servings of fried fish than people in the rest of the country.

The researchers defined adequate intake of nonfried fish as at least two servings weekly.

These differences remained evident even after adjusting for potential confounders, leading the researchers to conclude that racial and geographic differences in fish consumption may be one of the reasons for differences in stroke incidence and death in various areas around the country.


(1) F. Nahab, A. Le, S. Judd, M.R. Frankel, J. Ard, P.K. Newby, V.J. Howard. Racial and geographic differences in fish consumption: The REGARDS Study. Neurology. Published online before print December 22, 2010; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182061afb

(2) The "Stroke Belt" is usually defined as an 8-12 state region (typically including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and often including Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. as well) where stroke death rates are substantially higher than the rest of the country. Within the stroke belt, the highest stroke death rates are clustered in the coastal plains regions of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; this region has been called the "Stroke Buckle."

(3) Research indicates that the process of frying fish causes a loss of these beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids. Besides, fried fish tend to be higher in fat (and sometimes trans fat, depending on the type of fat used) and therefore higher in calories compared to the steamed fish. Furthermore, overheating or over-using the frying oil leads to formation of rancid-tasting products of oxidation, polymerization, and other deleterious, unintended or even toxic compounds. It is wise to cut down on fried fish, as fish from our tropical waters are noted to have less omega-3 fatty acids than cold water fish.

Picture Credit : farm4.static.flickr.com. If there's such a dish called "Southern Fried Fish", this is not it. What we have here is a Sundanese style of crispy fried fish (Ikan goreng renyah). :)

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