The Truth About Fish

Dr. Richardson was startled. What could possibly have gone wrong? After years of success in controlling her cholesterol with diet, Jane´s cholesterol was now again on the rise. In fact, in roughly three months her LDL level had soared 50 points. Like any good doctor, Richardson tried to find the explanation for this perplexing rise. Nothing major seemed to have changed. Jane´s weight was not a problem; in fact, she had lost five pounds since her last visit. Furthermore, there was no change in the glands or other organs that can affect cholesterol levels, such as the thyroid or liver. Finally, on further questioning, the source of the problem surfaced. Jane had heard about the heart benefits of fish and had added a liberal amount of fish to her nearly-vegetarian diet. Dr. Richardson discovered it was this addition of fish that had boosted her cholesterol levels.

If such a scenario sounds perplexing to you, we are sure it did to many of the physicians who read that actual case history in 1987. It was included in a special physician newsletter that was part of a cholesterol education program co-sponsored by Columbia University and the American Heart Association. Although we were not told the doctor´s or patient´s actual name, the account was there in print?a woman who had moved from a vegetarian-style diet to a fish-based diet and had experienced a marked rise in her cholesterol levels. What could be the explanation for this deleterious effect from a food we have heard so much good about?

For well over a decade the media has championed fish consumption. They have touted its ability to lower cholesterol and decrease heart disease risk. In 1985, three high profile studies came out on the same day in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. In one of those reports, researchers studied 20 years worth of coronary heart disease deaths among men in Holland. They found that those who consumed 1 oz. of fish daily reduced their risk of heart death by 50 percent. A second report described the effects of fish oil on the lowering of cholesterol and triglycerides. The third study dealt with fish oil´s effect on white blood cell function. As a result of these and other studies, many Americans switched from red meat to fish, hoping to improve their fat intake, lower their cholesterol levels, and decrease their risk of heart disease. In many cases, the strategy seems to have worked. A switch from heavy red meat use to heavy fish consumption does tend to lower cholesterol levels and bring with it health benefits to the heart. However, medical research also contains ample warnings about the use of fish and fish oil.

For more informations see:
- Proof Positive by Neil Nedley


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