By Christine Blank, Contributing Editor
Published on Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Several doctors and organizations are encouraging the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update its 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) to include more seafood.
The USDA accepted public comments ahead of its public meeting on 16-17 September in Washington, D.C. This is the fifth and final public meeting before the USDA releases the final draft guidelines in early 2015.
Commenters in support of Americans eating more seafood are urging the USDA to recommend that the public eat two to three seafood meals weekly, while some individuals and organizations say the USDA should caution Americans to eat only eat sustainable seafood and seafood low in methylmercury.
Despite numerous health experts and organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association recommending that Americans eat more seafood, they are not eating enough, according to Linda Cornish, executive director of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership. According to the USDA, the average American ate 198 pounds of red meat and poultry in 2013, compared to 14.4 pounds of seafood, Cornish wrote in public comments to the USDA.
“Perhaps even more concerning is that pregnant women, on average, eat just 1.8 ounces of seafood per week. Women in the U.S. have among the lowest levels of omega-3 DHA in their breast milk worldwide,” she said.
“Low seafood consumption is a serious public health concern. Based on the breadth of scientific research showing the importance of including seafood in the American diet, I urge this committee to not only maintain the seafood recommendation in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, but to further emphasize its importance,” Cornish said.
Registered dietitians, cardiologists and other health experts agree with Cornish. “As a nutrition consultant for food companies such as the National Fisheries Institute, I know first-hand the sheer amount of science that supports seafood as a food for the epidemics that plague Americans: obesity and cardiovascular disease,” Rima Rkeiner, MS, RD, wrote in public comments to the USDA. “I urge you to follow in the footsteps of the 2010 DGAs and clearly encourage the public to eat two to three seafood meals per week.”
“As a board-certified cardiologist…one of the most important foods that I recommend to every patient is seafood, which is rich in Omega 3s and is proven to reduce their risk of developing heart disease,” Matthew Budoff, MD, professor, wrote to the USDA. Even though studies have shown that eating fish at least twice a week can reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack by 36 percent, Americans are eating less than one serving of the recommended two to three seafood servings each week. “Putting additional qualifiers on seafood will only add to past confusion and encourage limited seafood consumption,” Budoff wrote.
However, “additional qualifiers” is what some consumer advocacy groups are proposing. “We would encourage the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to recommend only wild-caught, sustainable seafood and not farmed seafood, because of the inputs that go into them. The corn and soy [feed] is laden with GMOs and pesticides,” Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager of the Food and Technology Program at Friends of the Earth, told SeafoodSource.