It’s hard to escape all the news about eating fish to benefit our health. But anyone feeling virtuous about opting for fish-and-chips or a fish sandwich will now have to think again. A new study has found that eating commercially fried fish and battered-fish sandwiches is associated with a higher risk of stroke in older adults, whereas consuming canned tuna or baked or broiled fish is associated with reduced risk. Cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian at Harvard University and his colleagues recently analyzed the diets of 4,775 adults ages 65 and over, comparing the amount and type of fish consumed to the number and type of strokes suffered over a 12-year period.
The researchers found that people who ate one to four meals of tuna or any baked or broiled fish per week had a 27 percent lower risk of suffering an ischemic stroke. Accounting for 88 percent of all strokes, the ischemic stroke occurs when a clot or other obstruction blocks an artery that leads to the brain.
Those who consumed commercially fried fish or fish sandwiches more than once per week had a 44 percent higher risk of ischemic stroke. Although the diet questionnaire used in the study did not go into detail on food-preparation methods, Mozaffarian says “fried” fish in this country usually means fast-food fish burgers, frozen fish sticks and fish-and-chips—all breaded and deep-fried at some point. These typically contain dangerous trans fats or oxidation products from frying. “I think it’s pretty likely that the fish oil is what’s producing the benefit we see,” said Mozaffarian. “Now, if you took a fatty fish and fried it in healthy oils like canola or extra-virgin olive oil, would that reduce risk? Possibly, but that’s the kind of question that I think further studies need to address.”
Bottom Line: To reduce risk of stroke, avoid commercially deep-fried fish, opting instead for canned light tuna or baked or broiled fatty fish.
First Choice (fatty) Fish:
* Striped Bass
* Farmed Sturgeon