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Farmed Tilapia and Catfish are More Like Chicken than Fish

Fish are heart-healthy foods because they usually have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of omega-6's.. However, researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine show that farm-raised tilapia and catfish contain less than one-eighth the amount of omega-3's found in farmed salmon or trout. The tilapia and catfish also had much larger amounts of omega-6 acids than salmon or trout. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in tilapia and catfish averaged 11 to one, about the same as that of chicken (Journal of the American Dietetic Association, December 2008).

A crucial part of a healthful diet is the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. Your immunity is supposed to be good for you by killing gems before they can harm you. However, if your immunity stays active, it starts to attack your own body to increase risk for heart attacks, certain cancers and even asthma and some types of arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids produce prostaglandins that turn down your immunity to help prevent inflammation and the health problems it can cause. Omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation. A major explanation for the high heart attack rate in North Americans is the high ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s in the diet that contains lots of omega-6s from vegetable oils and low amounts of omega-3's found in fish and seeds.

Few species of fish can grow and thrive on a diet of corn and plant oils. Salmon, trout and most other farmed fish must be fed fish meal and fish oils, which are good sources of omega-3's. However, tilapia and catfish can be raised on corn alone. Since corn-fed tilapia are inexpensive and abundant, they are the fifth most popular fish in North America and are widely used for fish sticks, fish burgers and artificial crab (surimi). These are perfectly good foods, but to get the full benefit of omega-3's in seafood, choose oily fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, anchovies, mackerel or herring.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Do the risks of drinking alcohol outweigh the possible health benefits?

Numerous studies have associated moderate drinking with decreased heart attack risk. However, this is offset by its association with high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, respiratory infections, gall stones, kidney stones, age-related macular degeneration, decrease in bone density, and lowered mental capacity. Now a study from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, of more than 70,000 women shows that drinking alcohol regularly is associated with increased risk for hormone- related breast cancer (European Journal of Cancer, December, 2008). It didn’t make any difference whether the drinks were hard liquor, beer or wine.

The most likely explanation is that alcohol interferes with the ability of the liver to remove estrogen from the body, so that women who drink have higher estrogen levels that stimulate breast cancer cells to grow. The association between drinking and breast cancer was highest in cancers that are stimulated by estrogen.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How could vitamin D deficiency contribute to diabetes?

Lack of vitamin D prevents the body from controlling high rises in blood sugar levels. The extremely high rate of diabetes in African Americans is primarily caused by their dark skin blocking the sun’s rays. Now the World Health Organization reports that more than 41 million Indians suffer from diabetes and up to 80 percent of diabetics in the Southeast Asia region do not know that they have the disease. (WHO Report, December, 2008). Dark skin blocks the sun’s rays which are the primary source of vitamin D.

Another study found that three-quarters of young people with diabetes have low blood levels of Vitamin D and the older the youth, the more likely he or she was to be deficient in vitamin D. 85 percent of diabetic adolescents had low vitamin D levels (The Journal of Pediatrics, January 2009).

In a third study, researchers in Denmark recommended new guidelines for vitamin D3 pills to treat vitamin D deficiency (Osteoporosis International, December 13, 2008). They gave varying doses of vitamin D3 and found that a person needs at least 1250 IU of D3 pills for at least 10 days to raise blood levels of D3 to a normal range (65 nmol/L).


Recipe of the Week:

Smoked Salmon Salad

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June 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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