A recent article in the NY Times tells us that the celebration of fish oil as a means to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke has been misguided. Despite a few studies confirming its benefit, most of the studies did not pan out when conducted as a clinical trial among patients at risk for those diseases. Other experts believe the jury is still out, particularly when it comes to those of us at normal risk for such diseases. Fish oil is also generally considered, though not fully proven, to be beneficial at preventing other degenerative or lifestyle diseases, such as cancer, depression and Alzheimers.
Even disparaging researchers, however, encourage folks to continue eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, i.e., the fatty cold water fish such as salmon, halibut, mackerel, cod, herring.
But perhaps they should be encouraging us to eat mole sauce with a good chunk of meat instead. Mole, pronounced MOH-lay, is that wonderful Mexican concoction that brings chili and chocolate to a meat sauce. And meat, in recent news, turns out to be helpful when it comes to preventing a stroke! Red meat! Okay, this is just an observational study, not one set up as a clinical trial, but the group that ate the diet highest in the amino acid cysteine (best sources are meat, poultry and eggs) also had the lowest rate of stroke . It was also noted that those eating a high protein diet – that was also high in fiber! – had a 59% reduced rate of high blood pressure. That is such an important qualifier: when a claim is made about eating lots of meat, it is critical to separate the only-meat eaters from the meat-and-lots-of-veggie eaters. The combo is terrific, eating primarily meat OR primarily veggies are both deficient diets.
The same research group led by Susan Larsson at the Karolinska Institute, had already found, in separate studies for men and women, that the folks eating the most chocolate had the lowest incidence of stroke. Thus, you see why I started thinking Mole!
Does this mean I would never recommend fish oil? In general, I would hesitate to recommend almost any supplement en masse to the world at large. General recommendations I believe should be dietary, and even those work best with some individual tinkering. Supplement recommendations should arise with wise consideration of each individual’s health condition, not as suggestions for all. There are a few exceptions, but today’s news can be summed up: enjoy fatty fish, good meat and other protein sources, plenty of fibrous vegetables, and don’t forget yesterday’s news that chocolate can be protective. (Darker the better, minimizing the sugar, which is not so good for anything.)