July 19, 2024

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Small fish: what happens to the body when we eat it whole

Small fish are a common food, especially in summer, and a key part of the Mediterranean diet both in Greece and abroad.

A new study out of Japan points to the health benefits of eating small fish. The study conducted by Dr. Chinatsu Kasahara, Associate Professor Takashi Tamura and Professor Kenji Wakai from Nagoya University School of Medicine in Japan, published in the scientific journal Public Health Nutrition.

The Japanese usually eat small fish, and it is customary to eat the whole fish, including the head, bones and abdominal organs, which are rich in nutrients such as calcium and vitamin A.


The research team examined the relationship between small fish consumption and mortality risk among Japanese people. The study included 80,802 participants (34,555 men and 46,247 women) aged 35 to 69 years. Researchers Participants were observed for an average of nine yearsThere were 2482 deaths among participants during the follow-up period, of which approximately 60% (1495 deaths) were cancer-related.

One of the most striking results of the study was significant reduction in mortality for all causes and cancer among women who regularly eat small fish:

  • Those who eat it 1-3 times a month have a 0.68 lower mortality risk (0.72 from cancer).
  • Those who ate 1-2 times a week had a 0.72 lower risk of mortality (0.71 from cancer).
  • Those who eat 3 or more times a week have a 0.69 times lower risk of mortality (0.64 from cancer) compared to those who rarely eat small fish.

After accounting for factors that may influence mortality risk, such as participants' age, smoking and drinking habits, BMI (body mass index), and intake of various nutrients and foods, the researchers found that women in the study who ate frequently small fish, were less likely to die (for any reason).

These results suggest that including the consumption of small fish in their daily diet may be a simple but effective strategy to reduce the risk of mortality. The risk of all-cause and cancer-related mortality in men followed a similar trend to that in women, although it was not statistically significant.

“Although our results were limited to Japanese people, they should be important for other nationalities as well,” said the study leader. As Dr. Kasahara explained: “Small fish are easily eaten by everyone and can be eaten whole, including the head, bones and giblets. Nutrients and active substances unique to small fish may help maintain good health. The association between small fish consumption and mortality risk among women highlights the importance of these nutrient-dense foods in the human diet.”

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