The Holford Watch guide to cooking fish (response to Patrick Holford’s advice on hayfever)

Yesterday, Patrick Holford was featured in a Manchester Evening News article on hayfever. There’s too much in the article to cover here, so I’m going to focus on what he said about cooking fish (sorry, the effects of posting while hungry).

For Holford, while he recommends omega 3 supplements, you also “can and should obtain these from eating unfried, unbreaded fish”. That got me thinking about why fish should be unfried and unbreaded.

Firstly, omega 3 fats aren’t terribly bright. They don’t much care whether they fish is breaded or not. Breading mackerel – for example – before baking or pan frying isn’t going to somehow damage its omega 3 content (breading mackerel/herring strips, then baking to make ‘fish fingers’, is also sometimes suggested as a way to get kids to eat oily fish – and seems pretty sensible).

Secondly, the issue around frying is a bit more complex. Having read through way too many papers pubmed about how cooking fish effects the omega 3 content, there is disagreement between different papers – for example, one paper found a nutritionally significant 11% fat reduction when salmon was fried, while another found, on the contrary, it’s hard to destroy the omega 3 fats in herring through cooking because “fatty acids have a high durability and a low susceptibility to thermal oxidative processes“.

In order words, it looks like the effects of cooking on the omega 3 content of fish may vary depending on the type of fish, length of cooking, and just blind luck. Frying fish may reduce the omega 3 content – but unless you char it to a crisp this is unlikely to completely destroy these fats. In other words, eat a healthy, varied diet, without too much fried food or junk food – but hopefully your common sense would tell you this, without the need to see a nutritionist.



Filed under fish, hayfever, manchester evening news, omega 3, patrick holford

4 responses to “The Holford Watch guide to cooking fish (response to Patrick Holford’s advice on hayfever)

  1. Shinga

    A valued correspondent sent the Manchester piece to me. Life is too short to debunk all of this material but I shall post something about the claims relating to MSM and hayfever. I don’t think that I’m giving too much if I say that i) I don’t agree with the claims about MSM (premature at best) ii) there are significant caveats with that MSM study iii) the study was sponsored by an MSM manufacturer.

    That’s the problem with this stuff. It probably takes 2 or 3 minutes for Holford or his researchers to glance through an extract and decide to cite it in support of some claim that takes 1 minute to write. Debunking the claim involves reading the original paper, any subsequent comments, related literature etc. – probably 2 hours or so for one misrepresentation that probably represents less than 10 minutes work (all in) for the orginator.

    Regards – Shinga

  2. UKdietitian

    One aspect that Patrick always omits is that UK ‘vegetable oil’ is 100% rapeseed (canola) oil.

    10ml of rapeseed oil gives you 900mg of the plant omega-3 fat called Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA).
    10-15% of ALA is converted to EPA/DHA (the ‘fish’ omega-3) in the body.

    So 10ml of veggie oil absorbed into your cooked fish gives you plenty of omega-3, and potentially generates 90-135mg of ‘fish oil’. Of course, a tiny bit will be lost in deep-frying -but not that much…

    But one wonders why Patrick NEVER mention vegetable oil as an omega-3 source. Search anywhere you like on any of his sites – as at 22.00h on 24.04.07 ( I predict a change within days) he seems to have completely overlooked this CHEAP, EASILY ACCESSIBLE omega-3 source, that can be EASILY INCORPORATED into the diet without too much fuss or EXPENSE. And no need to recommend a SPECIFIC BRAND of veggie oil- they’re all the same….

    Now why could that possibly be?

  3. Jon

    Shinga- yeah, it took me a fair while just to deal with the frying fish claim (you’d be surprised how many studies have been done of frying food…) And that still leaves a fairly ambiguous conclusion – to get a relatively ‘definite’ response to this one claim would take a lot of work. And there’s about ten claims like this in a short article.
    Look forward to your MSM piece, anyway.

    UKdietician- of course I can’t know why Holford writes what he does, but I wonder if the various scare stories about rape seed oil have anything to do with that? (see for example

  4. Le Canard Noir

    And anyway, fish a is a delicate flesh where cooking is used to enhance flavours rather than tenderise. Fish needs a light touch and should never be overcooked. Anyone, cooking hard enough to destroy significant quantities of the oil needs a cookery lesson, not a nutrition lesson and fish oil supplements.

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