The medical profession has lately advised people what to eat to remain healthy through living a lifestyle which is likely to fight off disease, rather than stuffing oneself with medication. For instance, eating fish at least three times a week can cut the risk of bowel cancer by up to 12%, a World Health Organisation study found. Researchers said the 15-year study of nearly 500,000 people showed that those who ate fish regularly were less likely to develop tumours than those who had none, or less than one portion.
Researchers said omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are likely to be behind the protective effect. The three 100g portions could be of any fish, including traditional favourites like cod or haddock which have lower omega-3 levels than oily fish, like mackerel and sardines. Dr Marc Gunter, who led the study, said: ‘Our research shows that eating fish appears to reduce the risk of bowel cancer and should be encouraged as part of a healthy diet. Current NHS guidelines suggest we should eat at least two portions of fish a week.’
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common form of the disease in the UK and has the second highest death rate. More than 42,000 are diagnosed in Britain each year and it kills 16,400 annually. The study was carried out by the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer. Dr Anna Font, of the World Cancer Research Fund, which paid for the work, said: ‘This large study adds to the scientific evidence suggesting that consuming fish could reduce the risk of bowel cancer. The biological reasons by which fish consumption potentially lowers risk are not fully understood but one of the theories include specific fatty acids such as omega-3, found almost exclusively in fish, being responsible for this protective effect via anti-inflammatory properties.’
However, Dr Gunter admitted his team had not tracked whether the people in the study had used fish oil supplements. He said: ‘One downfall is that dietary data collected from participants did not include information on fish oil supplement intake. This may also have an effect on bowel cancer so further studies will be needed to see if fish, or fish oil, influence bowel cancer risk.’
Previous studies have suggested eating fish is a disappearing habit in the UK. The NHS advises that everyone should eat fish twice a week, including one portion of oily fish such as salmon or tuna, but research has shown 64% of people do not meet this target. It found over 55s ate the most fish, with 45% having at least two portions a week. But other groups ate far less.
Young families with children aged between five and eleven consumed the least, with only 25% having fish twice a week. The NHS recommends pregnant women should eat no more than two portions a week of oily fish because they contain traces of mercury which can cause problems if expectant mothers build up too much. Other people are advised to have no more than four portions of oily fish a week.
And there you have it. Everything in moderation where food is concerned augurs well, health wise. Be prudent and you are likely to benefit.