Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Policy Point Wednesday - Fried fish and stroke risk

A recent study showed that one commonality of people in the "stroke belt" is that they eat fried fish two or more times a week, and less non-fried fish than other Americans. While this study only confirms a direct link between the community and this particular eating habit, it does not explain why this might be the case.

The American Heart Association suggests that Americans increase their consumption of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.  However, it specifically states:
  • Enjoy fish baked or grilled, not fried. 
  • Choose low-sodium, low-fat seasonings such as spices, herbs, lemon juice and other flavorings in cooking and at the table.
While it is clear that there is a correlation between frying fish and negative health outcomes, it is not clear why.  Some sources suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids degrade when fried, while others suggest that the types of fish typically used in frying are not high in these fats.  It may simply be that the omega-3s in fish can't compensate for the negative effect of the added fat and salt in deep frying.

The Mayo Clinic includes a page on healthy cooking techniques: it lists almost every way under the sun to cook food - except frying.

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