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Fried Fish Lose Omega-3s, Linked to Stroke


Fish is often touted as a healthy food because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, but the benefits seem to disappear if the fish is fried. An Emory University study finds that eating fried fish is more common in states that have a higher rate of fatal stroke.

Baked and broiled are healthier than fried fish

Fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, and halibut, are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Both DHA and EPA have been shown to lower the risk of stroke, heart disease, and atherosclerosis, largely because of their ability to reduce triglyceride levels, blood pressure, and inflammation.

At Emory University, researchers found that fried fish is consumed more often in “stroke belt” states—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee—than in other states. Residents of the stroke belt states are also more likely to have a stroke and die from stroke than people living in other states.

The researchers based their findings on their evaluation of data on 21,675 people who had participated in a program called REGARDS (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke). Of these individuals, 55 percent were from states with high stroke rates and the remainder lived in other states.

Study participants were interviewed by telephone, asked to complete a questionnaire about their consumption of oysters, shellfish, tuna, fried, fish, and non-fried fish, and also underwent an in-home physical examination.

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Investigators found that people living in the stroke belt were less likely to consume two or more servings (a serving is 3 ounces) of non-fried fish weekly based on American Heart Association guidelines, but they were 30 percent more likely to eat two or more servings of fried fish than people living elsewhere in the country.

Among other findings from the study were that only 23 percent of people ate two or more servings of non-fried fish weekly, people in the stroke belt were 17 percent less likely to eat recommended servings of non-fried fish weekly, and African-Americans were more than 3.5 times more likely to eat two or more servings of fried fish per week than whites.

According to Fadi Nahab, MD, of Emory University and the study’s lead author, “These differences in fish consumption may be one of the potential reasons for the racial and geographic differences in stroke incidence and mortality.”

In another study, it was shown that DHA can protect stroke victims from brain damage and disability. A Louisiana State University research team found that the omega-3 fatty acid can repair the brain up to five hours after the stroke occurs.

Research indicates that frying fish causes omega-3 fatty acids to be lost. Individuals in the stroke belt could regain those beneficial fatty acids by switching to baked, broiled, and other non-frying cooking methods for their fish.

Belayev L et al. Translational Stroke Research, doi: 10.1007/s12975-010-0046-0