What Are Amazing Benefits of Salmon Fish
BENEFITS RELATED TO OMEGA3 CONTENT
Salmon has earned its research reputation as a healthsupportive food based largely on its unusual omega3 fatty acid content. Its very common for 4 ounces of baked or broiled salmon to contain at least 2 grams of omega3 fats—more than the average U.S. adult gets from all food over the course of several days. If we consider 4 grams of omega3 fatty acids to be a daily goal for a person consuming a 2,000 calorie diet—based upon recommendations from the 1999 Workshop on the Essentiality of and Recommended Dietary Intakes RDI for Omega6 and Omega3 Fatty Acids sponsored by the National Institutes of Health NIH—then this would equal about 50% of this goal. For more on this, see our writeup on omega3s.
About half of this omega3 fat is provided in the form of EPA eicosapentaenoic acid and a slightly lower amount is provided in the form of DHA docosahexaenoic acid. The amounts of EPA and DHA contained in salmon are unusual among commonlyeaten foods. In addition to this high concentration of omega3 fats is the relatively small amount of omega6 fats in salmon and its outstanding ratio of omega3 to omega6. Four ounces of salmon will typically contain less than 1/2 gram of omega6 fat, for an omega3 to omega6 ratio of approximately 5.5 to 1. In the average U.S. diet, this ratio has repeatedly been shown to be lopsided in the opposite direction, with at least 45 times as much omega6 fat as omega3 fat, and in some studies, up to 1220 times more. In our Worlds Healthiest Foods rating system for food, only two foods provide more omega3s per standard serving than salmon. Those two foods are walnuts and flaxseeds. Both of these plant foods are outstanding sources of omega3s! However, they cannot be compared on an equal basis to salmon because their omega3 fats come in the form of alphalinolenic acid ALA rather than EPA or DHA.
The widelystudied benefits of omega3 fatty acids are documented in our Omega3 Fatty Acids profile in the Essential Nutrients section of our website. In general, these benefits involve improved control of the bodys inflammatory processes, better overall cell function, improved transfer of information between the bodys cells, and better brain function. When researchers look specifically at intake of omega3containing fish like salmon, they find health support in all of the above areas. However, some areas of omega3 support are what we would call “standout” areas. These areas include:
Intake of fish rich in omega3 fat including salmon is associated with decreased risk of numerous cardiovascular problems, including: heart attack, stroke, heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides in the blood. Intake of omega3containing fish is also associated with improved metabolic markers for cardiovascular disease. Some cardiovascular benefits from omega3 fat in fish like salmon start with only one omega3 fish meal per week. Most of the benefits, however, start to show up in research studies with somewhat higher fish intake, along the lines of 23 times per week. In most studies, one serving of fish is approximately 6 ounces. Studies of fish intake and cardiovascular risk sometimes measure benefits against total grams of omega3 fats obtained in the daily diet. In many of these studies, a daily minimum of 2 grams of omega3s is required for measurable cardiovascular protection. Remember that this 2gram amount is the amount contained in approximately 4 ounces of cooked salmon.
Improved Mood and Cognition
Many researchers consider DHA to be the most important fat found in the human brain, and the unusual concentration of this omega3 fatty acid in salmon helps explain the researchdocumented benefits of salmon and omega3 fish intake for thinking and the decreased risk of certain brainrelated problems that accompanies omega3 fish consumption. Intake of omega3s and omega3 containing fish is associated with decreased risk of depression, decreased risk of hostility in some studies of teenagers, and decreased risk of cognitive decline in older persons. Some studies have shown an association between IQ and omega3 intake, and also between IQ and intake of omega3 fish.
Especially interesting in this area of fish intake, DHA, and brain function is the relatively recent discovery of protectins. Protectins are special compounds made from DHA and preliminary research studies have shown them to have a potentially important role as antiinflammatory regulatory molecules, especially when produced by nerve tissue. When protectins are produced by nerve tissue, they are typically called “neuroprotectins.” Researchers have speculated that at least some of the brainrelated benefits from omega3 fish intake may be due to conversion of the DHA in these fish to protectins that can help prevent excessive inflammation.
One fascinating area of omega3 and omega3 fish research has involved the joints. Research on fish intake and joint protection has shown that EPA from fish like salmon can be converted by the body into three types of closelyrelated compounds that work to prevent unwanted inflammation. One group of compounds are the series 3 prostaglandins. A second type are the series 3 thromboxanes. A third and more recently discovered type are the resolvins. All of these omega3 fat derivatives are able to help prevent excessive and unwanted inflammation. Whats especially interesting about salmon, however, is that it combines these antiinflammatory benefits that are related to omega3 content with antiinflammatory benefits that are related not to fat but to protein. Recent studies demonstrate the presence of small bioactive protein molecules called bioactive peptides in salmon that may provide special support for joint cartilage as well as other types of tissue. One particular bioactive peptide called calcitonin has been of special interest in these studies, because a human form of calcitonin is made in the human body by the thyroid gland, and we know that it is a key hormone for helping regulate and stabilize the balance of collagen and minerals in the bone and surrounding tissue. Salmon peptides—including calcitonin sCT—may join forces with salmons omega3 molecules to provide unique antiinflammatory benefits for the joints
Omega3 intake and consumption of omega3 fish has been associated with decreased risk of two eyerelated problems: macular degeneration and chronic dry eye. In the case of macular degeneration a chronic eye problem in which material in the center of the retina on the back of the eyeball begins to deteriorate and cause loss of vision, two fish servings per week is the amount that has been shown to significantly decrease risk. For decreased risk of chronic dry eye, a somewhat higher amount of omega3 fish intake 24 servings per week was the minimum amount needed, with 56 weekly servings showing even greater reduction of risk.
Like brain studies on omega3 fish intake, dry eye studies have started to look specifically at neuroprotectins made from DHA in salmon and other omega3 fish. These omega3 derived molecules may help prevent chronic dry eye by lowering background levels of inflammation in the eye.
Decreased Cancer Risk
Intake of fish rich in omega3 fat is also associated with decreased risk for several types of cancer. These cancer types include colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. Some of the strongest findings for decreased cancer risk following regular intake of omega3 fish involve the blood cell or lymph cellrelated cancers including leukemia, multiple myeloma, and nonHodgkins lymphoma. Similar to cardiovascular studies, cancer risk studies typically begin to show measurable benefits when omega3 fish are consumed at least once per week.
Benefits Related to Protein and Amino Acid Content
The outstanding omega3 benefits of salmon are not this foods only claim to unique health support. One intriguing new area of health benefits for salmon involves the protein and amino acid content of this fish. Several recent studies have found that salmon contains small bioactive protein molecules called bioactive peptides that may provide special support for joint cartilage, insulin effectiveness, and control of inflammation in the digestive tract. Weve seen recent studies, for example, on salmon peptides and treatment of ulcerative colitis. We also have to wonder whether intake of salmon peptides may be related to the reduced risk of colorectal cancer that is associated with consumption of this food. One particular bioactive peptide called calcitonin has been of special interest in these salmon and amino acid studies. The human body makes its own human form of calcitonin through a process which takes place in the thyroid gland, and we know that calcitonin is a key hormone for helping regulate and stabilize the balance of collagen and minerals in the bone and surrounding tissue. As researchers learn more and more about salmon peptides—including calcitonin sCT, and its relationship to human calcitonin—we expect to see more and more of salmons potential.
Benefits Related to Selenium
Another nutrient concentrated in salmon worthy of special mention is selenium. In terms of absolute selenium amount, salmon ranks in our WHFoods top 10, and four ounces provide about 62% of the Daily Value DV for this mineral. Strong selenium intake is associated with decreased risk of joint inflammation, and also with prevention of certain types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. As an antioxidant nutrient, selenium has also been shown to be especially important in cardiovascular protection through maintenance of the molecule glutathione. Each of these seleniumrelated benefits overlaps with other spotlight areas for salmon as a healthsupportive food.
With exceptional nutritional value due to their rich concentration of omega3 fatty acids, salmon is a favorite among fish lovers and enjoyed even by those who are not always fond of fish. Salmon are incredible fish sometimes traveling thousands of miles throughout their life cycle and within two to five years returning to the very location where they were born to spawn and die. The specific characteristics and life cycles of salmon vary with each species. For example, king salmon has a life cycle of approximately 46 years, sockeye, 46 years, and silver 34 years.
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