Eating Sushi for Better Hearing Health

By Pallavi Bharadwaj

I recently became a pescatarian (mostly) and adore sushi. I am glad that after being a vegetarian all my life I finally added fish to my diet because according to a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women who eat fish regularly have a lower risk of developing hearing loss than those who rarely or never eat fish.

The authors of the study used data that were collected as part of the Nurses’ Health Study II, a prospective cohort study. On the basis of the data, they examined independent associations between consumption of fish and long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and self-reported hearing loss in 65,215 women who were followed from 1991 to 2009. Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires every two years.

The women who consumed fish at least twice a week were found to have a 20 percent lower risk of hearing loss versus those who consumed fish less often (less than once a month). This protective action was found irrespective of the type of fish consumed. A higher intake of omega-3s, particularly EPA (ecosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), was also associated with a lower risk of hearing loss. However, no association was found for consumption of omega-6 fatty acids.

“Omega-3 antioxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and vitamin C have been the focus of a growing body of evidence showing potential hearing benefits,” says Gordon Hughes, M.D., the program director for clinical trials at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, which provided funding for the study.

Other studies had already established a link between eating fish—the omega-3s they contain in particular—and a lower risk of cardiac and cerebrovascular diseases. It is thought that a diet rich in these foods helps to maintain blood flow to the cochlea through similar mechanisms, thus providing oxygen and nutrients that the cochlea needs to function properly.

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