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Small Fish Whole Linked to Reduced Cancer Mortality Risk in Women

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  • There are many factors involved in a person’s risk of both developing and dying from cancer. Previous research shows that one of those influences is what people eat. Past studies have linked following a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet to a lower risk of dying from cancer. On the flip side, following an unhealthy diet high in sugar, salt, and ultra-processed foods may increase a person’s cancer mortality risk. The study was recently published in the journal Public Health Nutrition. Based on the questionnaires, scientists noted how frequently study participants ate small fish whole. 
  • At the study’s conclusion, scientists discovered there was a significant reduction in all-cause and cancer death among female participants who habitually ate small fish whole. 
  • When researchers factored in lifestyle habits that may impact mortality risk, such as smoking, BMI, and alcohol consumption, they found female participants who ate small fish frequently were less likely to die from any cause. According to the researchers, it is common practice in Japan to eat small fish — including small horse mackerel, whitebait, Japanese smelt, and sardines — whole, including the organs, bones, and head. 

The health benefits that have been associated with fish overall such as being a rich source (of) essential and protective nutrients such as protein and healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a source (of) calcium from the bones and a host of other vitamins and minerals has been pretty consistent in the research. Often when someone is eating small cold-water fish sources they are also choosing other foods that complement the health benefits offered by fish such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

Tiny fish do not typically lend themselves well to being battered, deep fried, and served with french fries but are more delicate as well as naturally portion controlled. They tend to be richer and more flavorful in taste to the palate which lends itself to slower eating, savoring the bites and possibly needing less to feel satisfied. This kind of research is important because what we eat has a significant impact on chronic disease.

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