As kids, many of us were told to eat our fish because it was “brain food”. Evolutionarily speaking, expansion of early human (hominid) brains occurred with consumption of aquatic animals (turtles, crocodiles) with further brain maturation/development accelerating as Homo sapiens migrated to coastal regions. Now, in addition to serving as brain food, a new study suggests that consuming fish may also relieve migraine headaches.
The study, supported by the National Institutes of Health and published in the British Medical Journal, found that a diet enriched with omega-3 fatty acids (predominantly fish and shellfish) and low in linoleic acid (as derived from vegetable oils) reduced the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches by ~1/3 over the 4-month study period. Potential mechanisms for these benefits include anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties from compounds (oxylipids) released by the omega-3’s, EPA and DHA coupled with pro-inflammatory properties associated with linoleic acid.
Bottom Line: if you have a history of migraines, try enriching your diet with omega-3 containing fish (e.g., salmon, sardines, herring) while reducing products high in linoleic acid (e.g., sunflower, corn, hempseed oil).
Listed below are additional health benefits attained through fish consumption.
- An Australian study found that men and women aged 50 and older who consumed 2 or more fish meals each week experienced a 40% lower likelihood of hearing loss over the 5-7 year follow-up period.
- Parvalbumin, a protein enriched in carp, cod, herring and redfish has been shown to prevent the buildup of proteins associated with Parkinson’s disease.
- A study from the United Kingdom found that addition of 6 ounces of fatty fish daily (salmon, sardines, kipper and herring) for 6 weeks was associated with improvement in long-standing psoriasis.
- A Norwegian study found that fish consumption at least once weekly was associated with a lower risk of the Metabolic Syndrome.
- A Swedish study in school children found that fish eaten at least once a week was associated with greater academic achievement than no fish consumption.
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Dr. Michael Miller, is Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, and author of several books, including his most recent “Heal Your Heart“.