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Furore over health effects of catfish

By Stanley Akpunonu
01 June 2017   |   3:50 am
According to the study, catfish contains omega-6 fatty acids, which could increase the level of inflammation in the body and inflammation is the underlying cause of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and diabetes.

According to the study, catfish contains omega-6 fatty acids, which could increase the level of inflammation in the body and inflammation is the underlying cause of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and diabetes.

*Eating oily fish boosts overall mental, emotional wellbeing, study reveals

The health benefits of oily fishes especially catfish have again been questioned despite the fact that the dishes are now in popular demand across the country. Hotels, restaurants, beer parlours now offer catfish, popularly called ‘point and kill.’ Point and kill means ‘make a choice from live fishes to be prepared at the spot’ with spiced delicacies.

Is eating catfish dangerous to health? An unpublished study claims that consumption of catfish could increase the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases. According to the study, catfish contains omega-6 fatty acids, which could increase the level of inflammation in the body and inflammation is the underlying cause of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and diabetes.

However, several studies have shown that although catfish also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which has a lot of health benefits, the ratio of omega-6 is far greater than omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers, however, recommend that catfish should be consumed in moderation to prevent health complications.

Also, catfishes farmed with hormonal feeds are laden with steroids and some fattening chemicals. There are also concerns that the use of antibiotics in fish farming is fuelling antibiotics resistance in humans who consume them. Scientists had in 2015 raised alert that dosing livestock with antibiotics is putting human health at risk. They said farmers should thread with caution in their use of the drugs because bacteria are becoming immune to treatment. They cautioned that within 30 years antibiotic resistant superbugs would claim more lives than cancer.

However, Council of Fellows of Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON), last week dismissed suggestions that regular intake of catfish is dangerous to health.
Executive Director, Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR) and Secretary Council of Fellows, FISON, Dr. Gbola Akande, told journalists: “The story of catfish being bad has taken the dimension of a myth. The story is mythical in the sense that it was invented from imaginary and fictitious perspectives, basically unproven and should be regarded as false. We planned to put the record straight by portraying what has led to this latest campaign against catfish, further reinforce the good qualities of catfish and continue to promote catfish as a good and healthy candidate that it has been known for.”

Akande said catfish oils contain monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and fatty acid composition varies not only from species to species, but often to an even greater extent from one fish to another of the same species as environment, feeding, maturity and sex of fish can also affect its fats content.

He continued: “A balance of the essential fatty acids, omega-3 (n-3) and omega-6 (n-6) PUFAs are critical to healthy living. While n-6 can block or promote inflammation, it only does so in response to the amount of omega-3 received by the body. Recommended ratios in diets that provide health benefits include n-6: n-3 is less than five by World Health Organisation (WHO) and PUFA: SFA greater than 0.4 (WHO).”

Akande said that catfish from the wild and farmed raised, fall within the recommended n-6 to n-3 ratios as proposed by WHO, thereby cannot inflict any damage on the body system.

He added: “n-6 fats help to lower your Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) that is bad cholesterol, while improving your ratio of High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) that is good cholesterol to LDL cholesterol. It has been shown that the higher the ratio of HDL cholesterol to LDL cholesterol the better for reducing the risk for heart disease. N-3 fats can also affect cholesterol, its consumption may lower your triglyceride levels and increase your HDL cholesterol, but they may also increase your LDL cholesterol, if consumed in excess.”

“If you are at risk for inflammatory diseases or blood clots, you do not want to consume more than the recommended amounts of omega-6 fats, as they may increase the risk for these conditions when consumed in large amounts, especially if you do not consume many omega-3 fats,” said Akande.

Chairman, Council of Fellows, FISON, Prof. Olujimi Faturoti, said that fish is highly recommended by the American Heart Association, to be included in the diet at least twice a week because, it helps in having a healthy brain, nutrient source of low fat and high quality protein.

Faturoti added: “It is also good source of omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D and B2, calcium, phosphorus, iodine, iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium which are essential for healthy living. Catfish is no exception to these attributes. The omega 3 fatty acid helps in the brain and vision development of infants while still in the womb.”

The chairman outlined the benefits of fish oil saying: “Fish oil contains omega 3 fatty acids which can reduce risk of coronary heart disease and lower cholesterol. It helps to reduce swelling and pain. They lower the risk of age related and muscular degeneration. They reduce the chance of heart attack and stroke by lowering the triglycerides and the blood pressure level, slowing the development of arterial plague. They also reduce the chance of individual with heart disease dying suddenly due to cardiac related causes.”

Faturoti highlighted that the aforementioned qualities of fish oil shared with catfish have been demonstrated from the scientific research frontiers of nutrition and health thereby promoting the acceptability of catfish in Nigeria. He called for the tracking of the aquaculture products from the producers to consumers, as the initiative will prevent the abuse of production processes in catfish industry.

Previous studies had shown that fishes are low in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol, which make them good substitutes for chicken and red meat. Fish is also a good source of protein, several vitamins, and minerals. Some types of fish – fatty, cold-water fish – such as salmon, mackerel, and herring are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s appear to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease. They also protect against irregular heartbeats and help lower blood pressure.

Until now, oily fish, especially those from the wild have been linked with better heart health, eyesight, kidney function, and mental and psychological performance, among other health benefits.

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