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Two Servings of Fish a Week Protects Women Against Hearing Loss

Sep 13, 2014 08:00 AM EDT

Eating fish regularly doesn't just protect against heart diseases and cognitive decline, but can also lower the risk of hearing loss in women, a new study has found.

Brigham and Women's Hospital researchers have found that eating two or more servings of fish a week was linked to a lower risk of hearing loss in women.

Sharon G. Curhan, MD, BWH Channing Division of Network Medicine led the current study and it is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN).

"Acquired hearing loss is a highly prevalent and often disabling chronic health condition," stated Curhan, corresponding author. "Although a decline in hearing is often considered an inevitable aspect of aging, the identification of several potentially modifiable risk factors has provided new insight into possibilities for prevention or delay of acquired hearing loss."

Previous research has suggested that higher intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) might protect against hearing loss. However, this is the first study to find a direct link between the two.

Data for the study came from Nurses' Health Study II. Around  65,215 women were part of the prospective study and they were followed from 1991 to 2009. During the study period, 11,606 women developed hearing loss. The researchers found that women who ate two or more servings of fish per week had a 20 percent lower risk of developing hearing problems than other participants who rarely ate fish.

Also, higher levels of long-chain omega-3PUFA was associated with lower risk of hearing loss.

"Consumption of any type of fish (tuna, dark fish, light fish, or shellfish) tended to be associated with lower risk. These findings suggest that diet may be important in the prevention of acquired hearing loss," said Curhan in a news release.

Fish are a good source of protein and are ideal for people who want to control weight. However, certain types of fish have high levels of methylmercury  and other harmful chemicals. These compounds can damage health, especially of fetuses. Pregnant women are advised to avoid eating fish with high levels of mercury.

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