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Health Benefits of Fish Consumption
Episode 481st March 2024 • Fork U with Dr. Terry Simpson • Terry Simpson
00:00:00 00:15:43

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Health Benefits of Fish Consumption

Fish consumption has been linked to various health benefits due to its rich nutritional profile.  The health benefits of fish consumption include cardiovascular health, brain function, and well-being. Because fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, they are an important part of a balanced diet.

Fish, the Most Ancestral Food

Fish has long been recognized as a valuable source of essential nutrients beneficial for human health. Seafood is a staple part of the diet across different cultures and regions.  Since most of the first human communities were coastal, fish were a common source of food.

Cardiovascular Health Exceeds Risk

Regular fish intake reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease and stroke (Mozaffarian & Rimm, 2006).  That study showed that the benefits of fish intake exceed the potential risks. Even for women of childbearing age, the benefits of modest fish intake, excepting a few selected species, also outweigh the risks.  The heart health effect comes from the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found abundantly in fatty fish species (Kris-Etherton et al., 2002). These fatty acids exert anti-inflammatory, antiarrhythmic, and vasodilatory effects, lowering blood pressure and triglyceride levels and reducing the formation of blood clots (Calder, 2015).

Brain Function

Fish consumption has also been associated with improved cognitive (brain) function and a reduced risk of brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA play a crucial role in brain health (Gómez-Pinilla, 2008). Epidemiological studies have consistently shown a positive correlation between higher fish consumption and better memory (ref). Moreover, research suggests early-life exposure to seafood has long-term brain benefits and decreases age-related cognitive decline (Wurtman et al., 2009).

Nutrient Profile, Such as Vitamin D

But omega-3 fatty acids are not the only benefit of eating fish. Fish are also a rich source of various essential nutrients vital for human health. Vitamin D, in particular, is naturally abundant in fatty fish and plays a crucial role in bone health, immune function, and mood regulation (Holick, 2007).  These include high-quality protein, vitamins (such as vitamin D and B-complex vitamins), and minerals (such as selenium, iodine, and zinc) (Kris-Etherton et al., 2002). Furthermore, the bioavailability of these nutrients from fish is superior to other dietary sources, including supplements.  Thus, fish consumption is an efficient means of meeting nutritional requirements (Rosell & Appleby, 2006).

Fish Farms

Aquaculture, the farming of fish and aquatic organisms, has undergone significant advancements in recent years, leading to improvements in sustainability, efficiency, and product quality. Fish Farms have had significant problems in the past.  In the last fifteen years, there has been an improvement in environmental management strategies and sustainable farming practices.

Those practices have changed my mind about seafood. Consequently, you can now buy quality farm-raised seafood, which adheres to the high standards of any food. Hence, I now recommend some farm-raised salmon.

Demand for Fish May Outstrip our Oceans

As global demand for seafood continues to rise, aquaculture has emerged as a crucial industry for sustainable meeting this demand. Farm-raised fish play a vital role in supplementing wild-caught fisheries and ensuring food security for a growing population. In recent years, advancements in aquaculture techniques and practices have led to significant improvements in the efficiency, sustainability, and quality of farm-raised fish.

Technological Innovations

Technological advancements have revolutionized the aquaculture industry. Automation and robotics have streamlined tasks such as feeding, monitoring water quality, and harvesting, reducing labor costs and minimizing human error. Some previous issues with farmed fish include high quantities of forever chemicals in their feed. However, advances in the use of alternative ingredients, such as plant proteins and oils, have enhanced feed efficiency and reduced reliance on wild-caught fish for feedstock (Tacon & Metian, 2008). Genetic selection and breeding programs have also played a crucial role in developing strains of fish with desirable traits, such as faster growth rates, disease resistance, and improved feed conversion ratios (Gjedrem et al., 2012).

Environmental Management

Some fish farms have been environmental disasters. Thus, Government and private groups have persuaded some fish farms to change their practices.  Sustainable aquaculture practices prioritized environmental stewardship and minimized the impact of fish farming on surrounding ecosystems. For example, combining clams and oysters with salmon farms to use nutrients more efficiently and reduce waste (Chopin et al., 2001).

Closed-containment systems, such as recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), decrease the risk of disease transmission and minimize the discharge of pollutants into the environment (Martins et al., 2010). Additionally, advancements in water treatment technologies, such as biofiltration and ozone disinfection, help maintain water quality and reduce the environmental footprint of aquaculture operations (Summerfelt & Vinci, 2008).

Quality and Safety Assurance

Antibiotic use in fish farms, much like antibiotic use in the cattle industry, has changed to where antibiotics are only used when needed for disease. Fish that have had antibiotics are not sold on the market until the antibiotics and disease have cleared their system. Furthermore, advancements in packaging, transportation, and cold chain management help preserve the freshness and nutritional integrity of farmed fish from harvest to consumption.

Advancements in aquaculture technology, environmental management practices, and quality assurance measures have led to significant improvements in farm-raised fish production. These advancements increase the efficiency and sustainability of aquaculture operations. In addition, they also enhance product quality, safety, and traceability. Moving forward, continued investment in research and innovation is essential to further the progress of the aquaculture industry. Thus ensuring long-term viability as a source of nutritious and sustainable seafood.

Where to Buy Your Fish

Many organizations buy their seafood from reputable organizations. Be that wild fish or fish farms. Those organizations include:

  • Blue Apron
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Hello Fresh
  • Whole Foods
  • Pacific Catch
  • PCC Community Markets
  • Mars Petcare
  • Compass Group
  • California Fish and Grill
  • Blue Sushi Saki Grill
  • Plank Seafood Provisions
  • Costco
  • Mom's Organic Market

Conclusion

In conclusion, fish consumption offers many health benefits, from cardiovascular protection to cognitive enhancement, due to its rich nutritional composition. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, along with other essential nutrients found in fish, exert profound effects on various physiological processes, promoting overall health and well-being. Therefore, it is advisable to incorporate fish into one's diet, especially fatty fish species such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.

 

References:

  • Calder, P. C. (2015). Marine omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: Effects, mechanisms and clinical relevance. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids, 1851(4), 469–484.
  • Gómez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(7), 568–578.
  • Holick, M. F. (2007). Vitamin D deficiency. New England Journal of Medicine, 357(3), 266–281.
  • Kris-Etherton, P. M., Harris, W. S., & Appel, L. J. (2002). Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. Circulation, 106(21), 2747–2757.
  • Morris, M. C., Evans, D. A., Tangney, C. C., Bienias, J. L., & Wilson, R. S. (2003). Fish consumption and cognitive decline with age in a large community study. Archives of Neurology, 60(7), 940–946.
  • Mozaffarian, D., & Rimm, E. B. (2006). Fish intake, contaminants, and human health: evaluating the risks and the benefits. JAMA, 296(15), 1885–1899.
  • Rosell, M. S., & Appleby, P. N. (2006). Fish consumption and risk of stroke in men. Circulation, 113(2), e104–e105.
  • Wurtman, R. J., Cansev, M., Sakamoto, T., & Ulus, I. H. (2009). Use of phosphatide precursors to promote synaptogenesis. Annual Review of Nutrition, 29, 59–87.
  • Chopin, T., Buschmann, A. H., Halling, C., Troell, M., Kautsky, N., Neori, A., Kraemer, G. P., Zertuche-González, J. A., Yarish, C., & Neefus, C. (2001). Integrating seaweeds into marine aquaculture systems: a key toward sustainability. Journal of Phycology, 37(6), 975–986.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO). (2011). Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products. Rome: FAO.
  • Gjedrem, T., Robinson, N., & Rye, M. (2012). The importance of selective breeding in aquaculture to meet future demands for animal protein: A review. Aquaculture, 350-353, 117–129.
  • Martins, C. I. M., Eding, E. H., Verdegem, M. C. J., Heinsbroek, L. T. N., Schneider, O., Blancheton, J. P., D’Orbcastel, E. R., & Verreth, J. A. J. (2010). New developments in recirculating aquaculture systems in Europe: A perspective on environmental sustainability. Aquacultural Engineering, 43(3), 83–93.
  • Summerfelt, S. T., & Vinci, B. J. (2008). Ozonation and UV irradiation: An introduction and examples of current applications in fish hatcheries. Aquacultural Engineering, 38(1), 1–14.
  • Tacon, A. G. J., & Metian, M. (2008). Global overview on the use of fish meal and fish oil in industrially compounded aquafeeds: Trends and future prospects. Aquaculture, 285(1-4), 146–158.

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