Why You Shouldn’t Eat Fish in Montreal or any Major City

February 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Health, Medical Research & Studies

We are usually exhorted to eat more fish, and indeed if you can guarantee the source then it is a good idea, but a major problem could be about to hit us. This is based on a study from Montreal which shows that around one in four citizens there take some kind of anti-depressant and, according to new research, the drugs are passing into the waterways and affecting fish.

I don’t imagine Montreal is that different from other major cities that connect to a waterway, and we already know that synthetic hormones from HRT and the Pill find their way into our water system. The findings are internationally significant as Montreal’s sewage treatment system is similar to that in use in other major cities, and moreover, it is reputed to be the third largest treatment system in the world. Dr. Sébastien Sauvé at the University of Montreal’s Department of Chemistry has found that the drugs accumulate in fish tissues and are affecting the fish’s brain activity.

Sauvé has been looking at the chemical pollution of the water system for years and said “Montreal has a very basic sewage system and the chemical structure of anti-depressants makes them extremely difficult to remove from sewage, even with the most sophisticated systems available. We know that antidepressants have negative side effects on human beings,” Sauvé said, “but we don’t know how exactly how these chemicals are affecting the fish, and by extension, the Saint Lawrence River’s ecosystem.”

Research is at an early stage, and there is no evidence to date that the release of antidepressants into the water is affecting brain activity in humans but you might want to check that your fish comes from deep, deep water and not an inland source!

How Fish Is Cooked Affects Omega 3 Levels

November 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Health


We know all about the heart benefits of eating fish high in Omega 3, but did you know that how you cook it can seriously affect the levels? Research carried out by the University of Hawaii and was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions on November 20 and found that if you want to get the maximum benefit your fish needs to baked or boiled, rather than fried, salted or dried.

You can also enhance the benefits by adding low-sodium soy sauce or tofu when cooking it. Frying does not generally get many health points and fish is no exception – despite the wonderful crisp batter from my local fish and chip shop – and in fact has several associated health risks.

The researchers studied the intake of various forms of omega 3 including tinned fish, soy products like tofu and shoyu and studied the results.

The Gender Difference

Men with a high Omega-3 intake from fish had a lower risk of death due to heart disease, but women got the same heart protection from both fish and plant sources. The researchers theorised that, for women, eating omega-3s from shoyu and tofu that contain other active ingredients such as phytoestrogens, might have a stronger cardioprotective effect than eating just omega-3s from fish alone. Also, that eating salted and dried fish was a risk factor in women, but not in men.

Before you start shaking that soy sauce bottle, please note that the benefits apply only when using a low salt version as the standard one is very high in salt which can raise blood pressure. You might do better to make tofu a regular part of your diet as that also seemed that eating it also had a cardio-protective effect. Personally I think it’s like eating your school eraser but without the added taste benefit of ink, so soak it in low salt shoyu before using it, or try smoked tofu instead as that has more flavour.

So, banish that frying pan and steam/bake your fish instead for a healthier option. Interestingly they didn’t study microwave cooking, and as this is a very fast way of cooking that essentially steams the food it would have been useful to see if that was also a good method for preserving the Omega 3.

How to substantially lower your risk of AMD

June 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Healthy Ageing


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in the over 60′s. You lose that sharpness of vision you need for everyday tasks like driving and reading and it can result in total blindness.

Two new studies now offer hope that this decline is not inevitable and there is an easy preventive measure anyone can take. The University of Sydney’s Westmead Hospital’s researchers undertook a ten year study and found that eating more fish, nuts, olive oil and foods containing omega-three fatty acids may significantly lower the risk for AMD, particularly if you also avoid trans-fats in your diet.

The researchers found that eating just one serving of fish each week was associated with a 31 percent lower risk of developing early AMD and if you include just one to two servings of nuts a week then there was an increase to a 35 percent lower risk of early AMD. Olive oil is the real key here though as it provides even better protection than the fish. The optimum amount for benefit is over 100 ml a week.

I have long extolled the virtues of the Mediterranean diet, and this is pretty much what this is advocating. In this case the benefits come from the fact that these ‘healthy’ fatty acids may protect the eyes by preventing the buildup of plaque in the arteries and by reducing inflammation, blood vessel formation and oxygen-related cell damage in the retina.

The research also highlighted who was most likely to have late-stage AMD and that turned out to be those who ate the most trans-fats. These are usually found in processed foods and bakery items. They can lower their risk by cutting out those items and increasing the amount of omega-three fatty acids as that showed they were far less likely to have even early AMD.

Nutrients are known to help with AMD and research by the US National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that taking high-doses of antioxidants and zinc significantly reduced the risk of advanced AMD and its associated vision loss. The study involved the daily intake of 500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 International Units of vitamin E, 15 milligrams of beta-carotene, 80 milligrams of zinc as zinc oxide, and two milligrams of copper as cupric oxide.

Selenium has role in preventing high risk bladder cancer

Selenium is an essential trace element that we need for health, and now it seems it could play an important role in preventing high risk-bladder cancer for certain groups of people. Researchers from Dartmouth Medical School this month reported in a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research that although not true for everyone some groups who had been newly diagnosed with bladder cancer showed significant reductions in their cancer when they were found to have higher rates of selenium than average in their bodies. The groups affected were women, moderate smokers and those with p53 positive cancer. While other studies have shown a similar association between selenium and bladder cancer among women, this study is one of the first to show an association between selenium and p53 positive bladder cancer. Selenium is a trace element found widely in the environment and good food sources include Brazil nuts, bread, fish, meat and eggs Christmas excess – be prepared!.

Top 4 foods to fight cholesterol

As winter approaches and cold weather is upon us, we naturally start to change our diets and often we are going for food that is comforting and also high in cholesterol from increased amounts of things like red meat and butter. Now while I admit that a crumpet with low fat spread would never pass my lips, it is sensible at this time of year to look at your overall diet and see if you are including the best possible foods to help fight cholesterol if that is a health problem for you. Women might also want to check out the Health Bites item for a tip on vitamin K.

I don’t think any of these ‘superfoods’ are going to be a revelation to you, but they might remind you of how helpful they can be in your fight to maintain low cholesterol. Many people ask me why I don’t just suggest statins (see previous issues on the website for my negative views on that) or just take one of the many cholesterol-lowering drinks you find in your supermarket. You can, of course, but if you read the labels on many of them you will find they are full of sugar, or worse, sweeteners plus E numbers and colours.

Also, the American Heart Association warns consumers about filling their diet with sterol-enhanced products such as spreads and drinks unless they also cut back on other sources of fat. If you just add these items in without doing so, they warn that obviously it could lead to excess calorie consumption which is not healthy and that anyone who has a history of heart disease or elevated LDL levels, must talk to their doctor before adding these sorts of products into their diet.

These suggestions are for a natural way to control cholesterol, and in these economically challenged times they are also cheaper – and healthier – than those manufactured products.

1 Oats
The Scots have had it right all along, because porridge for breakfast is one of the healthiest ways to start the day. If you don’t fancy the traditional salt version, and I wouldn’t recommend it if you are dealing with heart disease, then try it with semi-skimmed or low-fat milk and sweeten with a little honey or maple syrup. It’s the fibre in the oats that plays a significant role in decreasing “bad cholesterol” (LDL) levels. It works to reduce LDL levels by grabbing onto the cholesterol and eliminating it from the body through the digestive system. If you want to increase your fibre intake even more then add a chopped apple, or some prunes to the breakfast bowl. Some excellent fiber-rich choices besides oatmeal and oat bran include beans, barley, apples and prunes.

2 Plant Sterols
Another way to significantly reduce LDL levels is to include plenty of natural sterols found in fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds. They work by blocking cholesterol absorption and preventing it from getting into the bloodstream. People who include plenty of fruit and vegetables in their diet experience, on average, a 9% decrease in LDL levels and an average 12% reduction in C-reactive protein levels, another key indicator of heart disease risk. Another good reason for exceeding your ’5 a day’ quota.

3 Fatty Fish
I can’t help it, the phrase Fatty Fish reminds me of a childhood reading of Billy Bunter, and doesn’t sound all that appetising does it? However, wild salmon, sardines and anchovies are all rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. There is so much research now on how these “healthy fats” are essential for so many functions in the body that I hesitate to even mention it. But – in case you haven’t heard, they reduce LDL levels, help lower high blood pressure and cut cardiovascular risk. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may also raise levels of “good cholesterol” (HDL), which helps transport bad cholesterol to the liver, where it can be eliminated from the body. The usual recommendation is to have these fish at least twice a week, but not from the fish and chip shop as they are at their healthiest when grilled or baked.

Vegetarians, or fish haters, can also get the same good benefits from soya beans, seeds or nuts. A study in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association reported that omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts and flaxseeds had as much impact on blood pressure as omega-3 fatty acids from fish. A handful a day is enough to provide the heart benefits you need – any more and you are running into high calorie territory. Oh, and check out the health bites for another benefit of Omega 3.

4 Olive Oil
I have mentioned the benefits of the Mediterranean diet before, and olive oil is a key component of it. For a healthy heart we need to cut down on saturated fat and trans fats – often listed in the ingredients as ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’fats or oils.

Sources of the healthier monounsaturated fats are extra virgin olive oil, avocados, peanuts and nuts and they will all help lower your LDL and raise your HDL levels. Again, however, please be cautious as all types of fat contain more than twice the calories of proteins or carbohydrates.

So how do you combine them in the ideal day? Well you could start with breakfast of porridge with an apple chopped into it, then for lunch a large salad and dinner of grilled fish and home made ratatouille – lots of olive oil and healthy garlic in there!

Celebrate Sardines!

Although National Sardine Day falls on the 25th of November 2008, yes really, I thought I would encourage you to look ahead and plan for later in the year to celebrate this remarkable fish. The humble sardine isn’t something people usually rave about, but in terms of the health benefits per square inch they really are quite something. Whether you opt for the fresh fish, delicious grilled and stuffed with lemon, or the tinned variety in oil – not sauce – they are packed with inexpensive, high- yielding health benefits and nutritional value.

For such a small fish they can have a big impact as they contain substances that are proven to benefit your skin, joints, memory, and even boost your energy. Sardines are rich in omega 3 fatty acids — the crucial long chain variety you can only find in seafood, not vegetable matter high – and also have good levels of calcium and vitamin D.

Sardines also contain high levels of Coenzyme Q10 which is essential for so many important functions in the body. It is a supernutrient that’s great for heart health, energy, immune support, and healthy brain function. It is also an effective antioxidant and has been used for decades in Cancer treatment.

CoQ10 is also very important for cardiovascular health as it has many of the antioxidant properties of vitamin E. Inadequate levels of CoQ10 have been linked to heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and arrhythmias. In addition, CoQ10 is believed to lower blood pressure, prevent the oxidation of low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and help with irregular heartbeat. CoQ10 is also good for the teeth and gums, helping to fight oral infection.

Sardine sandwich anyone?