Make fish, seafood part of healthy diet

Richard C. Bogren, Reames, Elizabeth S.

News Release Distributed 11/04/10

Fish and other seafood are rich sources of the omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA and EPA, which have been found to provide protection from chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, said LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.

In recent studies with animals, U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers have found that DHA provided protection against insulin resistance and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and EPA offered partial protection against fatty liver disease.

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body isn’t able to efficiently use its own insulin to remove glucose from the bloodstream, Reames said. If left untreated, insulin resistance can lead to harmful buildup of glucose in the bloodstream and diabetes.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease results from accumulation of excess fat in the liver and may be caused by diabetes and obesity, Reames said. Afflicted liver tissue may harden and scar, sometimes resulting in cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.

“Human studies of the effects of DHA and EPA on insulin resistance have been inconclusive,” Reames said. “The researchers recommend new investigations, with larger numbers of volunteers, to more clearly define the relation of DHA and EPA to insulin resistance in humans.”

To get DHA and EPA in your diet, nutritionists recommend eating fatty or oily fish, including mackerel, sardines, anchovies, herring, albacore tuna and salmon, as well as oysters, shrimp, crawfish and fish oil supplements. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids are available from plant sources including soybean oil, canola oil, flaxseed and walnuts.

Omega-3 fatty acids help relax the arteries and improve blood circulation to the heart, inhibit blood clotting and improve heartbeat. They lower triglycerides and lower blood pressure. These factors make heart attacks less likely. They also keep the arteries open by discouraging the buildup of plaque in blood vessels.

Along with omega-3 fatty acids, fish and seafood offer additional health benefits. They are nutrient-dense and packed with protein.

“Seafood is generally low in calories and fat, containing less than 5 percent fat,” Reames said. “The fat found in seafood is mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, which help lower LDL or bad cholesterol.”

Reames said most seafood also is low in sodium and is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including iodine for thyroid gland function, iron for red blood cell formation and zinc for wound healing. It’s also rich in B vitamins needed for many metabolic processes, such as the release of energy in the body.

“Oysters, mussels and scallops are especially rich in both iron and zinc,” Reames said. “Seafood is an important source of vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy eyes, skin and hair, and vitamin D for strong bones and teeth.”

Rick Bogren
1/4/2011 1:10:42 AM
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