Showing posts with label Omega-3. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Omega-3. Show all posts

Nov 13, 2015

Anchovy vs. Sardine

Speaking of fish, anchovies and sardines come from two different families, but they do share some traits - both are small, silvery fish that are available fresh, preserved, and canned.

Sardine is an imprecise term for any number of small, silvery saltwater fish related to the herring and found throughout the world. They tend to travel in large schools close to the water's surface and are harvested fresh in the summer.

In the US, sardines are usually canned in oil or sauce, salted or smoked. In Europe, larger sardines are also eaten fresh, roasted in the oven or cooked on the grill either whole or in fillets. The name 'sardine' may be a reference to the Sardinian coast, where pilchards were one of the first fish to be packed in oil. The sardine is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and generally considered to be a brain food.

Anchovy refers to a family of small fish found in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. There is no single “anchovy fish” to be found, but rather a series of aquatic relatives that make them recognizable to us as members of the same fish family. Anchovies are sold flat or rolled, filleted and either salt-cured or oil-packed. The curing process is comparable to that of aged hams in that it is basically the anchovy’s own juices that make it happen, with bacterial fermentation playing a supporting role. For most of human history this salt packing was the way that anchovies were sold.

In Europe, marinated fresh anchovies are eaten frequently, available in restaurants and Spanish, Greek, and Italian groceries. Known mostly for their strong flavor and aroma, anchovies can be soaked in water to remove excess brininess.

Nov 1, 2013

What's in a Name, Snake Oil

Snake oil is now a generic term meaning a substance with no medicinal value sold as a remedy for physical ailments. The term most likely comes from the use of oil derived from Chinese water snakes as a topical lotion. Chinese immigrants working on the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s would use it to alleviate joint pain. This ancient Chinese remedy was laughed at by other medicine salesmen, who called it a scam. In time, the term “snake oil” developed a negative connotation.

In the mid-1980s, a California psychiatrist named Richard Kunin decided to explore the question if snake oil was quackery or was it a legitimate treatment for joint pain, like the Chinese laborers claimed it was. He shared his findings in a 1989 letter to the Western Journal of Medicine.

Snake oil, especially the oil from the fatty tissue found in Chinese water snakes was unusually high in omega-3 fats. Kunin concluded, this meant that it could actually do what its advocates claimed, "snake oil is a credible anti-inflammatory agent and might confer therapeutic benefits. Since essential fatty acids are known to absorb transdermally, it is not far-fetched to think that inflamed skin and joints could benefit by the actual anti-inflammatory action of locally applied oil just as the Chinese physicians and our medical quacks have claimed.”

Kunin believed that snake oil actually worked. Subsequent research suggests that he was right. Unfortunately, while Kunin’s conclusions are mostly correct, there is one significant omission. The Chinese snake oil came from water snakes, which, perhaps coincidentally fed on fish which themselves contained high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. American-sold snake oil came from rattlesnakes, which do not have anywhere nearly the omega-3 amounts needed to provide the promised therapeutic benefits.