Fish is essential in a healthy diet. They contain many healthy ingredients that are vital for the normal functions of the human body. Fish contains high levels of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. In addition, fish is low in fat and may help reduce the risk of disease like childhood asthma and prostate cancer. Many studies prove that fish oils play a major role in the prevention or treatment of heart disease because of the presence of omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are known to reduce blood triglycerides (main component of vegetable and animal oil), blood pressure, inflammation, and abnormal heart rhythms. Many studies also show that omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the risk of dementia, arthritis, asthma, and kidney disease.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May 1997 showed that fish and fish oil supplements may help improve cardiovascular and metabolic health. These benefits can be utilized if exercise is combined with six grams of tuna fish oil. In addition to these benefits reduced body fat can also be achieved if exercise is done while consuming fish oil. Fatty acids in fish oil achieve this by balancing High-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). It also relaxes the arterial walls and prevents the generation of plaque inflammation and platelet augmentation. Fish oil may also be used as treatment for some kinds of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is defined as an autoimmune condition where the synovial membrane becomes inflamed. This membrane works by protecting and lubricating the joints. Omega 3 fatty acids present in fish can help reduce inflammation in the joints caused by arthritis. Fish oil, combined with anti-inflammatory drugs, may aid in relieving joint aches and pains caused by arthritis.
However, recent studies show that too much fish on one’s diet may do more harm than good. High-levels of mercury are present in many store-bought fish that appear to be fresh, gleaming, and healthy-looking. Though the usual side effects of fish oil are moderate, the ones caused by mercury contamination can be very hazardous. In particular, mercury exposure is dangerous to children and pregnant women. Birth defects, learning disabilities, and hair loss are some of the effects of mercury poisoning.
According to studies, traces of mercury are found in fish because of a process called biomethylation. Biomethylation is a process wherein elemental mercury present in water are converted by bacteria into methylmercury. Methylmercury is absorbed by fish through their gills as they eat aquatic organisms. Toxins are then spread up the food chain, affecting other parts of the ecosystem. Normally, large fish like tuna will have higher levels of toxins compared with small fish like tilapia and salmon.
Cooking does not remove the toxins from fish. However, toxicologists are careful in saying that fish per se does not cause toxicity, but the traces of mercury present in the fish. People should not be scared to eat fish. In moderate amounts, fish is still good for consumption since it is an excellent source of protein and other nutrients.