Some Days It's All So Confusing

by DavalosMcCormack on August 6, 2008

Sometimes being healthy is very hard work. There’s so much conflicting information out there it’s hard to know what to make of it, who to believe, and what you are supposed to do.

In the 1940’s Camel cigarettes advertised its products saying “More doctors smoke camels than any other cigarette.” It was true. As far as it went. They based the ad on a survey they did that showed more docs did smoke Camels. But the power of the ad was it seemed to suggest that doctors were not only smoking Camels, they were recommending them. So, of course, people thought that meant they were healthy.

In Ireland pregnant women and nursing mothers were often advised to drink Guinness because of its high iron content, as were blood donors in England. It was all fed perfectly into the “Guinness is Good for You” ad campaign.

Nowadays no one makes any health claims for the beer. Though it is still a lovely pint.

But, forgetting my pint and getting back to my point, even when you think you are doing the right thing and following the right advice, you may not be.

I was reminded of that when I saw a new study saying that eating tuna and other types of fish could help lower the risk of cognitive decline and stroke in healthy older adults. The study is published in the August 5th issue of Neurology.

The researchers found that people who ate broiled or baked tuna or other fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, three or more times a week, had a nearly 26 percent lower risk of brain lesions that can cause dementia and stroke.

Grand, you are probably thinking, get me a tuna melt and hold the mayo. But not so fast. Other research has linked tuna to neurological problems, and advises eating it only once a week or less.

Now the study was done by a Dr. Jane Hightower and I have to admit, in the interest of full disclosure, that I work at the same hospital as Dr. Hightower. She’s great, a very nice lady. But I don’t get any financial or other benefit from her work.

Anyway, her research found that patients who eat a lot of fish such as swordfish, tuna and Chilean sea bass often had cognitive problems, particularly difficulty with their memory. The reason is that these fish are at the top of the food chain and have a lot of mercury in them. Eat the fish, the mercury enters your system and messes with your mind.

The good news is that you can solve the problem by cutting back on those kinds of fish and your body naturally sheds the mercury.

The problem is what do you do when one study says eat tuna regularly and another says don’t! Well, as in all things, moderation. You can eat tuna, just not every day. There are plenty of other fish that are high in those omega-3 fatty acids that can help protect the brain. Things like salmon, mackerel, trout and herring.

Of course, another possible answer for the reduced risk could be that because these people were eating fish, they weren’t eating red meat. So if you don’t like fish that much, eat it when you can, but just don’t eat as much red meat and things might work out just fine.

If you do cut out red meat and worry you may be getting too little iron in your diet as a result, you can always drink a pint of Guinness. It’s got plenty of iron in it. Remember. It’s good for you!!!

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