The Australian Financial Report (AFR) looks at the latest research on fish therapy.
Key points: Fish therapy may be an effective way to reduce or prevent heart disease and stroke, but some studies have not found significant benefits.
The AFR highlights a lack of evidence for fish therapy for cardiovascular disease, which may help explain the lack of clinical trials.
“The scientific literature on fish therapies is very small and conflicting,” Dr Zavala said.
“Fish therapy is being touted as a solution for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, but it is still very much a research project and there is no evidence that fish therapy is effective in treating those conditions.”
Dr Zapazila said the research was “really lacking” on fish’s effect on heart disease.
“There’s a lot of confusion in the literature on whether fish therapy improves cardiovascular outcomes, and how it can work, and whether fish is an effective therapy,” he said.
But fish therapy was the focus of an Australian study that found fish therapy had the potential to prevent or reverse many of the health problems associated with heart disease or stroke.
Dr Zashadze said research had shown fish could protect the heart from the adverse effects of the stress that can accompany heart disease over time.
The research involved taking fish samples from healthy and diseased hearts and then using techniques such as blood tests and a CT scan to detect changes in the body’s structure and function.
Dr Zapazila and his team also used a technique known as “polymerase chain reaction” (PCR) to look at whether the heart tissue of diseased heart tissue could be used to study how the fish treated affected the heart.
They were able to identify a particular gene in the fish that could be expressed in the heart when treated with fish therapy, and this gene led to a change in the structure of the heart, which was then associated with improved heart function.
“We were able, in a very small sample, to show that this gene can be turned on in fish that have been treated with the fish therapy gene and that the gene can actually help with a number of the other mechanisms we looked at,” Dr Zapasazila told the ABC.
“If we had a much larger sample, we would have been able to show the effects of fish therapy in humans.”
Dr Zapaglia and his colleagues have also been looking at the effects on a range of other conditions, including heart disease risk factors.
“What we’ve found is that fish is also able to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease,” Dr Oz said.
It was also possible to find some benefit in reducing the risk for some diseases associated with cardiovascular disease.
For example, in people with certain types of diabetes, fish therapy may help lower the number of cells that secrete insulin, which is a hormone that is important in the control of blood sugar levels.
“You could see that a lower insulin level could be a better risk factor for type 2 diabetes,” Dr Zarzazila explained.
“So, this is one example where fish therapy could be of use in people that have type 2,” Dr O’Brien said.
What does the research mean for the future?
Dr Zevazila hopes that further studies will look at other conditions that can be treated with certain fish species, and further studies are planned.
The study also highlighted the importance of testing fish for heart conditions before it is administered.
“It is possible that some of the adverse events seen in fish therapy are the result of this, but the problem is that we are not able to detect these events before the treatment is given,” Dr Zanazila added.
“Once we are able to do that, we can do more studies to see if fish is effective and if it has any safety issues.”
Dr Oz, who is also a former president of the Australian Medical Association, said fish therapy has a bright future.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he told the program.
“But if we continue to get this research we can see that fish has the potential, and we’ll see more and more people in the future using fish therapy.”