our fish - Nutrition

Yukon River Salmon is Good for Everybody!

Seafood is likely the single most important food one can consume for good health. – Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard School of Public Health.  Dr. Mozaffarian and his colleagues at Harvard conducted one of the most important public health studies about the benefits of seafood consumption, particularly when it comes to the consumption of oily fish such as salmon. In their landmark study, “Fish Intake, Contaminants, and Human Health:  Evaluating the Risks and Benefits” (Journal of the American Medical Association, October 18, 2006-Vol. 296, No. 15), Dr. Mozaffarian and colleagues found that eating at least one serving of fish such as salmon per week not only promotes heart health and cuts the risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent!

Why is this so? All seafood contains what are known as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, referred to as n-3s or Omega-3s. The benefits from seafood consumption come from two specific components of Omega-3s known as eicosapentanoic acid, or EPA; and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA.  Found almost exclusively in fish, these nutrients have, since the 1970s, been linked to a low incidence of cardiovascular disease in populations that consume a significant amount of fish.  In fact, the first indication of this benefit from Omega-3s came from studies of Greenland Eskimos, who ate a lot of high-fat fish.  These early epidemiological studies of Greenland Eskimos were also observed in Japanese populations, where heart disease (at least prior to their adopting a more “Western” diet) incidence was rare. 

Since those early findings in the 1970s, scientific research conducted all over the world has validated the earliest population studies, and new research into the benefits of a diet high in seafood (particularly fatty fish such as salmon) suggests that there might even be a link between eating seafood and preventing chronic conditions such as diabetes.  

In a recent study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, found that Yupik Eskimos, who consume 20 times more Omega-3 fats from fish than people in the “lower 48,) have a lower incidence of such chronic diseases as diabetes and heart disease: www.fhcrc.org

As the incidence of diabetes and other diet-related conditions increases along with the problem of obesity in the United States, many dietitians and public health professionals have begun to look to small changes that people can make to their diet and lifestyle, changes that will actually make a difference.  With the rates of childhood obesity continuing to grow in the United States, the federal government and consumer groups are beginning to take action. 

One such initiative, led by the federal government and various expert advisory groups, has been to change the dietary guidelines for Americans.  The most recent guidelines, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, now includes a recommendation to eat seafood twice a week, with at least one of those servings from the so-called “fatty fishes,” such as salmon.  Issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), these guidelines are intended for Americans age two and older, and serve to help people make informed food choices that lead to better health.  (To learn more about the new guidelines, visit www.cnpp.usda.gov

So why does the federal government now urge Americans to eat at least two servings of seafood weekly?

We all know that Omega-3s, found in fatty fish such as salmon, are good for you. They protect your heart, support a strong immune system, contribute to brain development and promote good mental health—among other benefits. But new compelling evidence is emerging almost daily about new benefits.  

picking berries on yukon river