New Under the Sun:
Volume 3, Issue 10
Fall brings with it thoughts of crisp, cool days as tasty as a ripe, juicy apple. And while the days are getting shorter, there is compensation in watching a perfect moonrise, whether crescent, wedge, or full, glowing orb. Take some time from your busy schedule to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the day.
Farm-Fed Fish Fats Fail: As readers of AnthroHealth News know, omega 3 fatty acids found in the oils of fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel provide heart-healthy benefits. Unfortunately, this now appears to be primarily true of wild, not farmed fish. The reason is that fish farmers found that when they fed fish oil supplements to the fish, there was some build up of toxins in the tissues. However, if fed vegetable oil supplements, this toxic build up did not occur. On the other hand, feeding fish vegetable rather than fish oils dampened the heart-healthy benefits usually obtained from consuming the fish. The higher the proportion of vegetable oil to fish oil supplements the fish consumed, the lower the health benefits received by those eating the fish. Study participants in Norway ate 100/grams/day of fatty fish for six weeks. For those eating fish whose oil supplement was solely from vegetable oil sources, there was no heart-health benefit, while a 50/50 supplement provided half the benefit received by those eating fish with a 100% fish oil supplement. The conclusion is that eating fatty fish provides no added benefit over eating other types of fish unless the fatty fish are wild or are farm-fed with fish oil supplements.
The solution would appear to be relatively easy: just make sure to eat wild-caught fatty fish. Unfortunately, most fish now available to buy are farm-raised. This is difficult to discern since, for instance, the labels on canned salmon do not say whether the fish are farmed or wild. However, the probability is high that the fish have been raised on a farm since, world-wide, only about 2 percent of salmon is wild-caught. Most of the farmed salmon are raised on a 50/50 fish oil feed, with some producers moving towards 100% vegetable oil feed. Since what the fish have been fed is unlikely to appear on the label, it is difficult for consumers to know how beneficial eating the fish will be. In addition, while concerns about cancers from toxins are legitimate, heart disease remains the number one cause of death. Furthermore, recent research has shown that omega 3 fatty acids also protect against Alzheimer’s Disease. Therefore, it would seem that the benefits of eating farmed fish raised on fish oil supplements would outweigh the negatives. Berstad P, Seljeflot I, Veierod MB, Hjerkinn EM, Arnesen H, Pedersen JI. Supplementation with fish oil affects the association between very long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in serum non-esterified fatty acids and soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1. Clin Sci (Lond). 2003 Jul;105(1):13-20. Calon, F. . . . S.A. Frautschy, and G.M. Cole. 2004. Docosahexaenoic acid protects from dendritic pathology in an Alzheimer's disease mouse model. Neuron 43(Sept. 2):633-645.
Talking about Death with a Dying Child: In the September 2003 issue of AnthroHealth News research was presented on euthanasia which discussed the ways euthanasia eased the grieving process for the survivors. To quote from that newsletter: "The most important factor in reducing stress associated with the grieving process is the ability to say goodbye to the patient, whether the patient dies naturally or by euthanasia. Preparation for imminent death is necessary, something more easily achieved with euthanasia. And, finally, talking openly about imminent death is important for both the patient and his/her relatives and friends. When these three factors are in play, the grieving process is less traumatic and adverse symptoms are reduced."
Recent research in Sweden supports the conclusion that talking about death with the dying individual, in this case, a child dying from cancer, eases the grief the parents feel. Many of the parents who did not discuss imminent death with their child later regretted that decision (27% of the 282 who did not discuss death), especially if they felt the child was aware of his/her impending death. They also experienced a more difficult grieving process. In contrast, none of the parents (147 of the total sample of 429 parents) who discussed their child’s imminent death with the child experienced any regret. In addition, the grieving process was easier for these parents to bear. In part, this was because the parents were able to discover and carry out their child’s last wishes, thereby providing closure. Kreicbergs U, Valdimarsdottir U, Onelov E, Henter JI, Steineck G. Talking about death with children who have severe malignant disease. N Engl J Med. 2004 Sep 16;351(12):1175-86.
Iron Deficiency and Immune Response: Research done on women aged 60 and older who were housebound found that despite being considered well-nourished (many received daily meals from social services) and healthy, a significant portion of the group had impaired immune system function. Further research found that those who suffered from iron deficiency, even when it was mild, had an immune response that was only 40 – 50% as efficient as those women who were iron-replete. The researchers concluded that impaired immune response is not necessarily a part of aging; diet may play a role. Other effects often related to aging may also be due to iron deficiency such as lethargy, inability to exercise, and limited stamina. The authors of this study plan future research that will test the effect of iron supplementation on the immune response in older women. Ahluwalia N, Sun J, Krause D, Mastro A, Handte G. Immune function is impaired in iron-deficient, homebound, older women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Mar;79(3):516-21.
Comment: As readers are aware, eating enough food to feel full does not necessarily equate with being well-nourished or, as this study showed, iron-replete. Iron-rich foods include wheat germ, liver, red meats, fish, shellfish, poultry, dried fruits, prune juice, pumpkin seeds, dried beans, spinach, and fast foods made with beef. For a complete listing of various food types and their iron content, click here: http://www.sandiegobloodbank.org/education/iron_rich_foods.php
There are two types of iron. Hemo iron is found in the flesh of animals, shellfish, fish, and poultry. Non-hemo iron is found in other food types. The hemo iron in red meat is the most easily accessed by one’s body. However, iron in other foods can be readily accessed by eating them with red meat as having a steak with spinach salad; or accessed with vitamin C as in a spinach and salsa omelet or spinach and shrimp salad with sweet red peppers.
The amount of iron needed daily varies by age and sex from 10 mg/day for infants to age 6 months, women over age 50, and men over age 19. Children require 15 mg/day, while males aged 10 – 19 require 18 mg/day. Females from age 11 – 50 require 18 mg/day unless they are pregnant and lactating in which case they require much more: 30 – 60 mg/day. That amount is difficult to get from one’s diet, so supplementation will probably be necessary during pregnancy. For all others, however, a proper balance of iron-rich foods in one’s diet should be adequate to prevent iron deficiency. For more information on iron, click here: http://www.bloodbook.com/iron-foods.html
AnthroHealth Tip of the Month: As winter approaches so does the cold and flu season. In order to give yourself a fighting chance against these infections, it is imperative to optimize your immune response. As discussed above, one method is by ensuring that you are obtaining enough iron from your diet for your age and sex. Another method that should be used concurrently with good diet is obtaining adequate sleep. During sleep, the immune system repairs and reactivates itself. So this season, give infections the one-two punch with optimal diet and adequate sleep.
© 2001-2009 Kathleen E. Fuller, PhD. All rights reserved.