caveat

Is Fish Good for You?

Hartosh Singh Bal turned from the difficulty of doing mathematics to the ease of writing on politics. Unlike mathematics all this requires is being less wrong than most others who dwell on the subject.
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Yes, if you worry about your heart. No, if you run the risk of prostate cancer

As we are learning with greater and greater certainty, the body is an interconnected whole. In no case is this more true than in the business of what we eat and what is good for us. Dietary advice based on ongoing research has always been a complex business, and food that we think is good for us from one study ends up having some unanticipated effect revealed by another study. Take, for example, a new study that turns the health benefits of certain categories of food fats on their head. It turns out those very fatty acids that are abundant in fish and are known to be good for the heart seem to be associated with a higher risk of developing aggressive, high-grade prostate cancer.

According to a press release by the Huthcinson Cancer Center in Seattle, a study by their researchers published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has found that ‘men with the highest blood percentages of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, an inflammation-lowering omega-3 fatty acid commonly found in fatty fish, have two-and-a-half-times the risk of developing aggressive, high-grade prostate cancer compared to men with the lowest DHA levels. Conversely, the study also found
that men with the highest blood ratios of trans-fatty acids—which are linked to inflammation and heart disease and abundant in processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils—had a 50 per cent reduction in the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.’

“We were stunned to see these results and we spent a lot of time making sure the analyses were correct,” says Theodore M Brasky, a research fellow at the Center. “Our findings turn what we know—or rather what we think we know—about diet, inflammation and the development of prostate cancer on its head, and shine a light on the complexity of studying the association between nutrition and the risk of various chronic diseases.”

“Overall, the beneficial effects of eating fish to prevent heart disease outweigh any harm related to prostate cancer risk,” Brasky adds. “What this study shows is the complexity of nutrition and its impact on disease risk, and that we should study such associations rigorously rather than make assumptions.”