Food and Behaviour Research

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Increased selenium intake in elderly high fish consumers may account for health benefits previously ascribed to omega-3 fatty acids.

Berr C, Akbaraly T, Arnaud J, Hininger I, Roussel AM, Barberger Gateau P (2009) J Nutr Health Aging.  13(1) 14-8 

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OBJECTIVE: To examine relationships between fish consumption and plasma selenium (Se) and red blood-cell fatty acid (RBC FA) profile in aged subjects. We hypothesised that the importance of Se has been underestimated when interpreting the beneficial effect of fish consumption on health.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional analysis of data from a prospective cohort study.

SETTING: The EVA study in Nantes, France (1991-2002).

SUBJECTS: 200 subjects aged > or = 69 y with information on RBC FAs, plasma Se and completed food frequency questionnaires.

METHODS: We examined correlations between the most abundant FAs, Se and number of fish meals per week. Linear regression models were used.

RESULTS: Plasma Se was negatively correlated with RBC omega6 poly-unsaturated FA (PUFAs) and positively with omega3 PUFAs. Plasma Se, RBC omega3 PUFAs, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) increased with fish consumption. Conversely, levels of omega6 PUFAs were lower in the highest fish consumption group. All associations between plasma Se and fish consumption remained significant when adjusting for omega6 PUFAs alone or additionally for age, sex, education, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular diseases, and broad food categories (meat, eggs, dairy products, cereals, fruit and vegetable). Associations between omega3 PUFAs and fish also remained significant in the same model independently of Se. In linear regression models adjusted for demographic indicators, fish consumption explained only 2.6% of the variance in RBC omega3 FAs (6.2% for omega6) but as much as 15% of the variance in plasma selenium.

CONCLUSIONS: The observed health benefits of fish consumption in the elderly could be related not only to the increase in omega3 FA intake but also to other nutrients such as selenium. It is important to consider this observation when interpreting associations between fish consumption and health status in the elderly, particularly with regard to brain function.