FISHCONCEPTIONS - Dispelling Modern Myths about Fish!
By Gina Shaw D.Sc. MA Dip NH AIYS Dip. Irid.
It seems that everywhere you look these days, there's people out there telling you that fish is healthy, and that it should be eaten as part of a healthy diet. Even on alternative health programmes, such as Dr Gillian McKeith's TV series, as well as plenty of legumes, vegetables, fruits and cereals, she plugs fish as a so-called health food. The latest popular diet, called the GI diet, also recommends fish as a low-GI food. In this article, we will have a look at some of the claims and see how they have led to so much false information and dangerous dietary advice.
The British Heart Foundation advocate fish eating as part of a healthy diet to avoid heart disease, and yet in their leaflet entitled 'Eating for Your Heart', they say that as well as providing Omega-3 fats (a particular type of polyunsaturated fat which is supposed to prevent blood clotting and help to reduce triglyceride levels), polyunsaturated fats also lower HDL cholesterol which is the protective cholesterol. Indeed, research based on studies concerning Omega-3 oils show that the risk of secondary heart attacks are reduced by 70% on plant-based Omega 3 fats as compared to only half this amount with fish oils. A UK study comparing fish oil and flax seed (linseed) oil observed that fish oil also increased the susceptibility of cholesterol to oxidation, potentially increasing the risk of heart disease, whilst the flaxseed oil diet did not.
It's quite odd when you think about it, but considering the Food Standards Agency have set up 'safe' levels of eating fish, stating that twice per week is the maximum amount anyone should be consuming fish, that fish is still being promoted as a 'healthy option' food. Any food which is advisable only in small amounts certainly needs reconsidering as a healthy option! The traces of deadly pollutants, associated with birth defects, nervous system disorders and poor brain development would it seems be worthy of more than a second glance. Plus the fact that there is no carbohydrate in fish (essential for a healthy human body), no dietary fibre and no vitamin C.
Animal fats have proven in many studies to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Fish is high in fat often 60% of its calories comes from fat, which is effortlessly incorporated into a person's body fat contributing to the risk of obesity. In fact there is considerable evidence that fish fat will increase a person's risk of cancer and also will increase the risk of metastasis (spread of cancer to other body parts). Fish fat is also known to paralyse the actions of insulin and increase the tendency for high blood sugars and eventually diabetes, it is known to suppress the immune system and is also known to increase the tendency for serious bleeding (haemmorhage) (see the Eskimo section in 'The Undigestible Truth about Meat').
Like all animal products, fish are high in cholesterol. Based upon weight, mackerel contains 95mg of cholesterol, haddock 65mg, tuna 63mg and halibut 50mg. This compares to beef at 70mg, chicken at 60mg and pork at 70mg. However when the comparison is based on calories, fish is higher in cholesterol than beef or chicken.
As a Natural Hygienist, I teach people that cooked protein is denatured and denatured protein is largely unuseable by the human body. To consume protein in a bioavailable way to the human body, we would need to consume the animal whole, raw and complete with all the blood, offal and bones. This is what is termed as complete protein. Wouldn't you rather eat some nuts?
That aside, the kinds of protein that make up fish are very acidic in nature. The high acidic load caused by ingestion of fish results in bone loss, which eventually leads to osteoporosis. Eskimos are among the highest consumers of fish on Earth and they also have the highest rate of osteoporosis (as well as high rates of haemmorhage).
MERCURY AND HEART DISEASE
Our discussion of fish would not be complete without some reference to mercury contamination. Methylmercury (MeHg) is a global environmental problem and is listed in the International Program of Chemical Safety as one of the six most dangerous chemical's in the world's environment. In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was warned that many fish contain such high levels of mercury that they may increase the risk of heart attack. Indeed, people in the study who had high mercury levels were thought to have more than double the risk of a heart attack compared with those who had lower mercury levels. Mercury is also known to be toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys with long-term exposure being linked to atherosclerosis (furring of the arteries).
FISH OIL SUPPLEMENTS
Unless these have been specially processed to remove cholesterol, fish oils contain large amounts of cholesterol (as well as pesticides and other toxic chemicals) and they will raise the blood cholesterol in those people consuming them. Even when the fish oil is purified of cholesterol, the Omega-3 fat itself will cause the LDL (the bad cholesterol) to rise. The final results are published in a study on the effects of fish oil on artery closure, where the authors concluded "Fish oil treatment for 2 years does not promote favourable changes in the diameter of atherosclerotic coronary arteries". Furthermore, from studies, fish oils are reported to 'Suppress the immune system, which can promote cancer and increase the susceptibility to viral infections and can cause severe bleeding' and 'Fish fat also inhibits the action of insulin, thus increasing a person's tendency to suffer from diabetes'.
'Eating for Your Health' The British Heart Foundation 2001
'Fish and Health' by Stephen Walsh PhD (Study cited in The Lancet 1999 354: 447-455)
Veggie Health 2004 Issue 6
'Fish is not a Health Food' Report by Dr McDougall February 2003