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Fish Every Friday Tales

Friday, March 16, 2018

Now that Ash Wednesday has come and gone and our souls have been cleansed by not eating meat, Lent has officially started for millions of Catholics around the world. Fish on Friday is back on the menu until after Easter Sunday.

My entertaining conspiracy theorist friends will, no doubt, sink their teeth right into an NPR spoof suggesting that a powerful medieval pope made a secret pact to prop up the Italian fishing industry by requiring all Roman Catholics to eat fish every Friday, with the goal of getting millions of Catholics around the world to alter global economics.

Does the 1970's catchphrase "follow the money" come to mind, again?

Other devoted Catholic leaders passionately believed that Jesus died on a Friday to redeem a sinful world; therefore, Friday fasting was started to commemorate his loving sacrifice. Fish on Friday as a religious observance eventually became the accepted worldwide Catholic norm to commemorate Jesus's sacrifice and to protect warm-blooded animals that sacrificed their lives for humans.  

However, according to Brian Fagan, PhD, author of Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World, and professor emeritus of archeology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, "Many people have searched the Vatican archives on this theory, and all have come up empty handed."

Other scholars have reported that when lusty Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in 1509, declared himself the head of the Church of England and divorced Catherine of Aragon so he could marry cute little Anne Boleyn, the Roman Catholic Church Fish Every Friday Canon Law dictate went immediately out-of-favor.

Nevertheless, when Henry's only son, Edward VI, was crowned, eating Fish on Friday became politically correct again, since the out-of-favor fishing economy had all but collapsed leaving tens of thousands unemployed and crown dependent. Fish days were then reinstated by law, "for worldly and civil policy, to spare flesh, and use fish for the benefit of the fisher commonwealth."

Pope Paul VI finally loosened Friday on Fish and fasting rules in the mid-1960s, and for a few years, the worldwide fishing economy was reported to fall apart a bit.  

Current hope is that the newer Pope Francis and other well-educated world leaders who are now excited about the science that supports preserving a healthy body, eyes and brain through food intake discipline will again encourage a serving of fish on Fridays instead of excessive daily amounts of unsustainable fish oil supplements. 

A Reminder

A study published in 2015 in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Preventive Medicine  actually found that eating fish once a week is associated with a healthy increase in brain volume. Although the disciplined ritual of fish every Friday works, I suppose one could eat fish any day or two of the week one chooses.

The study analyzed data from 260 cognitively normal people (average age 78) who had answered diet questionnaires. They’d also had their omega-3 blood levels measured and their brains scanned.

"This research found that once-weekly consumption of baked or broiled (not fried) fish was associated with larger gray matter volumes in areas of the brain responsible for memory and cognition. The association persisted after controlling for age, sex, race, education, physical activity, body mass index and any tissue damage found on the initial magnetic resonance imagine scan of the brain.

"The results were the same regardless of omega-3 levels, suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids were not the determining factor.  

"The study's lead author, Dr. Cyrus Raji, a radiology resident at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center said, “Eating fish once a week—there was no additional benefit in eating more—and living a generally healthy lifestyle were enough, along with physical activity, weight control, and so on—these factors influence the brain more than any supplement or any medicine. It’s much more in our control than we thought."

This is certainly not to suggest that essential omega-3 fatty acids are not relevant to brain development and brain health, because we believe they are—in reasonable amounts and from plant-based sources, as well as fish.  

The authors suggest that the data in their study should be of particular relevance to clinicians who care for individuals in the 40- to 60-year-age range and for the development of rational preventive interventions.

The medical consequences of the so-called Western lifestyle are increasingly recognized as independent risk factors for cognitive impairment. Interventions to modify this lifestyle have been proposed as health promoting approaches.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff


Lifestyle choices matter! So focus on staying fit, eating clean, nutrient-dense foods including fish at least once or twice a week, maintaining passion for something that matters to the greater good, and enjoying friends and family.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium puts out a list of the safest and most sustainable seafood choices. The "best of the best" list includes:

Albacore tuna (pole caught from the US or British Columbia)
Freshwater coho salmon (farmed in US tank systems)
Oysters (farmed)
Pacific sardines (wild caught)
Rainbow trout (farmed)
Salmon (wild caught, from Alaska)

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