Study Shows Eating Small Fish Lowers Risk of Overall Mortality and Cancer Death

by [email protected]

Including small fish in the diet reduces the risk of death from all causes, a recent study revealed.

A group of researchers from Japan discovered potential life-extending benefits of habitually eating small fish eaten whole, particularly among women. The findings of their study were published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

“Previous studies have revealed the protective effect of fish intake on health outcomes, including mortality risks. However, few studies have focused on the effect of the intake of small fish specifically on health outcomes. I was interested in this topic because I have had the habit of eating small fish since childhood. I now feed my children these foods,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Chinatsu Kasahara in a news release.

The study evaluated the dietary habits of 80,802 participants in Japan, of whom 34,555 participants were men and 46,247 were women. All the participants were between the ages of 35 and 69.

Using a food frequency questionnaire at the start of the study, researchers estimated the frequency of the intake of small fish among the participants. They were then followed up for an average of nine years. During this period, 2,482 deaths occurred, out of which 60%of them were cancer-related.

The researchers noticed that among women who habitually ate small fish, there was a significant reduction in all-cause and cancer mortality. This relationship persisted even after adjusting for other factors affecting mortality including participants’ age, smoking and alcohol consumption habits, BMI, and intake of various nutrients and foods.

“Women who eat small fish 1–3 times a month, 1–2 times a week, or 3 times or more a week had 0.68, 0.72, and 0.69 times the risk of all-cause mortality, and 0.72, 0.71, and 0.64 times the risk of cancer mortality, compared to those who rarely eat small fish,” the news release stated.

A similar pattern was observed among men, though the outcomes lacked statistical significance. The study did not delve into the reason for the varying benefits observed between men and women. However, potential factors such as differences in participant numbers and the absence of portion size measurement for the small fish consumed could contribute to this disparity.

“Small fish are easy for everyone to eat, and they can be consumed whole, including the head, bones, and organs. Nutrients and physiologically active substances unique to small fish could contribute to maintaining good health. The inverse relationship between the intake of small fish and the mortality risk in women underscores the importance of these nutrient-dense foods in people’s diets,” Dr. Kasahara explained.

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