It seems like every day health officials are saying something new about what we should and shouldn’t be eating. Fish is commonly quoted as being among the healthiest foods on the planet, and it is packed full of important nutrients, including protein, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids – all of which are incredibly important for your body and brain.
Tilapia and salmon are among the most eaten seafoods in the U.S., and are commonly found on U.S. dinner tablets. But there are some new, disturbing allegations from nutritionists that allege that eating tilapia is worse than eating bacon. … What?
The story of tilapia
This fish has risen in popularity because of how easy it is to farm, making it very cheap and easy to find in most U.S. supermarkets. But there is a world of difference between a fish that has been caught in the wild and a fish that has been farm-raised. This particular fish species is very hardy and adaptable to different types of feed, which means that tilapia farms can get away with using lower quality feeds – and what you feed a fish determines the quality of its nutrient content.
In 2008, researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine released a study that compared the fatty acid levels among fish that are popular across the U.S. The study found that tilapia contained far less omega-3 fatty acid than other American favorites, such as salmon and mackerel. The report found that the “inflammatory potential of hamburger (80% lean) and pork bacon is lower than the average serving of farmed tilapia (100 g).”
The report also stated that farmed tilapia contains high levels of arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that has been linked to brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, and which may cause inflammation.
Another concern is that a lot of the farmed tilapia we consume in the U.S. is from Chinese fish farms – 73 percent of it in fact. A study in 2009 by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture found some alarming facts about many of China’s farms and food processors.
The majority of Chinese farm-raised seafood is located in heavily industrialized regions – where the water, air and soil are contaminated by effluent waste from industry and exhausts. It is also common practice to utilize livestock and poultry waste as fish feed.
Whilst salmon has a better omega-3 to omega-6 ratio than tilapia, the majority of salmon consumed in the U.S. is farm-raised, meaning that it might also not be as healthy as you may think.
Problems with farm-raised tilapia and salmon
- Farm-raised tilapia may worsen inflammation that can lead to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and various other serious, and potentially fatal health problems.
- Farmed salmon may have at least 10 times the amount of cancer-causing organic pollutants compared with the wild variety.
- Farm-bred fish have high concentrations of antibiotics and pesticides, due to the increased risk of disease spreading through crowded conditions.
- The omega-3 acids from farmed fish are less usable in our bodies compared with those from wild-bred fish.
- Dioxin levels are 11 times higher in farmed salmon than wild salmon. Dioxin is a very toxic chemical that can contribute to cancer, and stays in the body for up to 11 years.
If your doctor is telling you to eat more fish, then be sure to look at the varieties that have higher levels of omega-3, and preferably those that are not farmed, as these will be far better for your health.