Fried fish bad, grilled fish good says heart study
June 10 2011 Lewis Smith
Fish and chips is a traditional treat for the whole family but eating it just once a week can be seriously harmful to health, doctors have concluded.
Researchers investigating the effects of how fish is cooked concluded that frying it increases the heart attack risk to diners by almost 50 per cent.
By contrast, when fish is baked or grilled it can lead to a 30 per cent reduction in the chances of suffering heart failure, according to a huge study carried out in the US.
Dark fish including salmon and mackerel are among the most effective at reducing the risk of heart attacks, they said. But frying fish not only cancels out the beneficial effects but reverses them.
“Not all fish are equal, and how you prepare it really matters," said Dr Donald Lloyd-Jones, of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, US.
"When you fry fish, you not only lose a lot of the benefits, you likely add some things related to the cooking process that are harmful."
The study was unable to distinguish between lightly sautéed dishes and deep fat fried fish but Dr Lloyd-Jones said: “My sense would be the majority would be the deep fat fried in batter which carries a lot more fat and oil with it than the lightly sautéed version.
“The batter tends to soak up a lot of the fat and that process of frying seems to be not only nullifying the benefits of fish but increases risk for heart failure, we think because of the extra saturated trans fats.”
He added that fish can be extremely good for health but not if they come deep fried from a chippie: “I think fish is great but how to prepare it matters. Have it baked or broiled [grilled] - and have just one or two chips on the side instead of a whole portion.”
Researchers reached their conclusions after analysing the experiences over eight years of 84,493 woman aged 50 to 79 who recorded information on what they ate as part of the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study.
The study, reported in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure, found that tuna and white fish, including cod, sole and snapper, were among the least effective at reducing heart risks. Dark fish were much better for the heart.
Those who ate five or more portions of baked or broiled fish in a week were found to reduce their heart attack risk by 30 per cent. Those who ate even a single helping of fried fish found their chances of heart failure rose by as much as 48 per cent.
Dr Lloyd Jones added: "Baking or broiling fish and eating it frequently seem to be part of a dietary pattern that is very beneficial for a number of things.
“This is further confirmation that including fish in overall diet is critical. It’s such a good source of lean protein. I would like to see more fish eaten and less of the fattier meats.
"In this case, we demonstrated that it's associated with heart failure prevention. This suggests that fish is a very good source of lean protein that we ought to be increasing as a proportion of our diet and decreasing foods that contain less healthy saturated and trans fats."
The study identified a clear link between women who ate baked and grilled fish and those who led heathier lifestyles, and analysis suggested that the benefits to health from the fish were in addition to the benefits of the lifestyles rather than being included within them.
People who ate baked or grilled fish regularly, researchers found, more active, fitter and less likely to smoke. Equally, their diets contained more fruit and vegetables. Conversely, women who ate more fried fish were more likely to be overweight and to consume more calories.
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