Tuesday, January 26, 2010
In Malaysia, for both women who have recently given birth and patients who have undergone surgery, chances are that the first anecdotal advice received will relate to the consumption of the ikan haruan (haruan fish) to aid in the healing of internal wounds.
This carnivorous fish is commonly found in the fresh waters of Southeast Asia. The parent species is classified into two main categories, the bigger sized Channa melanostoma, known as ikan toman, and the smaller sized Channa striatus, known as ikan haruan. According to Professor Abdul Manan Mat Jais of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University Putra Malaysia (UPM), this fish is in the category order of Channiformes, family Channidae, and genus Channa. There exist 30 species worldwide, with four found in Peninsula Malaysia, eight in Sarawak, and two in Sabah.
The haruan is unique among animals of the fish kingdom in that it practices monogamy and is strongly territorial. It is a very versatile fish that can live in both still or flowing water, as well as in shallow and muddy waters. Natural breeding grounds, however, include ponds, lakes, rivers, canals, paddy fields, and estuaries. Rumor has it that a giant haruan the size of a human torso had once been caught by a local fisherman. On average, however, these fish weigh only about one kilogram.
Research has shown that the haruan has a high vitamin A content, and at 60-70% of body mass, its protein content is also sizeable. Its fat content is low compared to other fresh water fish, and also compared to other poultry such as beef, lamb, and chicken. Meanwhile, toxic heavy metals commonly found in fish, such as manganese, nickel, and lead, have been found only in minute quantities in the haruan, negligible compared to the levels approved by general health standards.
An essential omega-6 fatty acid, arachidonic acid, is found in abundance in the haruan’s meat while the omega-3 fatty acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, is non-existent. This is a very interesting discovery as their metabolic interactions usually go hand-in-hand in competing pathways. AA is known to be essential for the repair and growth of skeletal muscle tissue, and plays an important role in the inflammatory process. Poor wound healing is characteristic of omega-6 deficiency symptoms. The haruan also contains high levels of amino acids important in the wound healing process. These include glutamic and aspartic acid, as well as glycine, an important component of collagen in the skin.