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Fish consumption, omega-3 fatty acids associated with reduced hearing loss in women

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(NaturalNews) Women who eat two or more servings of fish per week are significantly less likely to suffer from hearing loss, according to a study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on September 10.

"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," lead researcher Dr. Sharon G. Curhan, MD, said.

More than one-third of people over the age of 65, or 48 million people in the United States alone, suffer from some form of hearing loss.

"Acquired hearing loss is an extremely common and often disabling condition that can adversely [affect] communication, quality of life, work productivity and health," Dr. Curhan said in an interview with MedicalResearch.com.

Twenty percent lower risk

Prior studies have suggested that the presence of certain antioxidants in the diet, including omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, might reduce the risk of heating loss. One Australian study, for example, found that higher fish intake was associated with less hearing loss.

"Omega-3 antioxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and vitamin C have been the focus of a growing body of evidence showing potential hearing benefits," said Dr. Gordon Hughes, program director of clinical trials for the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, which funded the study, as reported by NPR.

The current study collected data on 65,215 women who were enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II and were between the ages of 27 and 42 when they began the study in 1991. All participants completed detailed questionnaires about their diets and whether they were experiencing any hearing problems. They were followed until 2009, by which point 11,606 of the women had reported some form of hearing loss.

After adjusting for potential confounding variables, the researchers found that the risk of hearing loss in women who ate two or more servings of fish per week was 20 percent lower than in women who ate no fish. In addition, women with the highest intake of long-chain omega-3s had a 22 percent lower risk of hearing loss than women with the lowest intake.

When the researchers looked separately at different kinds of fish, they found that all of them were independently associated with a 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," Dr. Curhan said.

The research was also funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Increase omega-3 intake; avoid contaminants

"A complex interaction of factors all contribute to acquired hearing loss, including lifestyle and environmental factors, age, genetics, noise exposure, and some medical conditions and medications," Dr. Curhan said.

"However, at least some of hearing loss may be preventable and there may be factors that can be modified to help prevent or delay its onset. These findings provide evidence that modifiable dietary risk factors may help reduce the risk of hearing loss."

Although the study could not determine why fish consumption might protect hearing, Dr. Curhan suggested that it might help protect adequate cochlear blood flow, which plays a key role in auditory health.

Prior studies have linked a diet high in omega-3s to a lower risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. Omega-3s have also been linked to improved fetal development.

However, due to the high toxin levels in many fish, experts advise limiting consumption of certain highly contaminated species such as tuna, swordfish, Chilean sea bass and farmed (Atlantic) salmon.

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