The joy of protein
Researcher Oddrun Anita Gudbrandsen believes that fish is good for both body and soul. We put her on the spot and asked: Why should we eat more fish?
Name: Oddrun Anita Gudbrandsen
Occupation: Nutrition researcher at the Section for Medical Biochemistry, Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Bergen (UiB)
Summoned for questioning: To explain why fish is so unbelievably good for your health.
Why are you so concerned with fish?
“My research is not primarily on fish, but rather on nutrition and how different types of protein may influence on people’s health.”
But you do keep feeding fish to your test objects?
“Yes, I had this theory that there must be more nutritious goodness from fish than omega-3 fats alone, so I chose to focus on the proteins. The participants in my surveys have received fish proteins, either in pill form or in fish meals. The purpose of my investigations has not necessarily been to prove that fish is healthy, bur rather to observe what fish intake does to the human body.”
What have you observed?
“The participants in the test suffer certain ailments, such as low sugar tolerance, too much fat in the blood, or overweight/obesity. Many of them say that they feel better after eating fish protein or fish on a daily basis. Our research shows that the regulation of blood sugar improves and that cholesterol levels are lowered. We have noticed that the overweight participants in the study struggle to get enough protein in their daily diet.”
Do the participants lose weight as part of the tests?
“Some participants lose some weight, whereas others see an improved balance between fat and muscle tissue. The tests suggest that the body’s metabolism improves when ingesting the right proteins. Overweight people often suffer from infections, because the body reacts to the food in a bad day and signals a crisis. When you are infected, the body cuts down on body fat consumption. This worked well in the Stone Age; if you were injured the body needed to conserve energy. But today this exacerbates the problem.”
I eat fish about every second day. Is that enough or not?
“How much and how often one should eat fish is one of the two issues we are trying to resolve. It’s a bit like medicine, a little bit every day. A steady oversupply of fish is perhaps not to be recommended.”
So, you can actually eat too much fish?
“Certainly, if you eat too much oily fish, you may experience diarrhoea. You will notice it quickly.
Is fish good for everyone? After all, some people are vegetarians and others live far away from the sea. I bet that nomads in the desert are not keen fly-fishers or what?
“I certainly believe that people can survive without eating fish. The key is to consume a varied diet and get the nutrients you need. Even in a coastal city such as Bergen, there are plenty of people who never eat fish.”
What is the benefit of your research for society? Will we all be popping fish protein pills in a few years’ time?
“I hope it will benefit many people. If we manage to show a difference between proteins and that the body needs different types of proteins, we can influence public dietary advice. And if our research is successful, we can provide patients with more tailored nutrition consultations. Not the least to provide protein supplements to those who struggle to get enough protein in their daily diet. But one thing is for sure: I will never promote a diet drug. This is purely about improving public health.”
But can there be some problems connected with producing and consuming even more fish than we already do?
“Obviously there are problems connected to overconsumption, but this applies to agriculture as well. The fishing industry dismisses a lot of what it produces, food that is today thrown away. This is material that could be used to produce fish protein pills and become a new source of revenue for the industry.”
Do you have any dietary advice?
“Patients can also make great gains by eating more pure meat, rather than, say, pizza with meat. The way we consume food today means that we put a lot of unhealthy food stuffs into our bodies. Basically we should eat more pure food stuffs, such as meat, fish and vegetables.”
(Translated from the Norwegian by Sverre Ole Drønen.)