Something Fishy

By Mary J. Loftus

Plate of fried fish

istockphoto.com

Feel free to broil, bake, grill, or saute your fish—just don’t deep-fry it.

Assistant Professor of Neurology Fadi Nahab, medical director of the stroke program at Emory University Hospital, has found that deep-fried fish may be a main culprit in giving the “stroke belt” a bad name.

The stroke belt includes Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Previous studies have shown that people living in this region are more likely to die from a stroke than people in other parts of the US, and that blacks are more affected than whites.

“Ours is the first major study to look at geographic differences in fish consumption in and out of the stroke belt,” Nahab says. “Eating less healthy fish may be contributing to America’s stroke belt and to racial disparities in stroke.”

Omega-3 fatty acids in fish (especially oily fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel) have been found to have health benefits and may actually reduce the risk of stroke. But when fish is deep-fried, it loses its natural omega-3 fatty acids and becomes more of a risk factor than a benefit, Nahab found.

The Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study is a national, population-based longitudinal cohort study with a special focus on African Americans and persons living in the stroke belt.

Nahab’s team studied a subgroup of the participants, giving them a food frequency questionnaire that gauged their intake of oysters, shellfish, tuna, fried fish, and nonfried fish.

Total average servings of fish consumed per week were lower among residents of the stroke belt and “buckle” (the coastal plain region of North and South Carolina and Georgia) than among residents of other areas, but stroke belt residents ate more fried fish. The American Heart Association recommends two or more servings of fish per week.

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