Media watch: Omega-3 fatigue?


April Forristall, assistant editor

Published on
August 11, 2011

According to a new International Food Information Council Foundation (IFICF) survey, consumers’ No. 1 source of information on diet and health is the mainstream media. Released late last week, the survey also found that the main reason consumers eat seafood is because of its health benefits.

So, with all the recent studies lauding seafood’s health benefits, particularly the heart-protective attributes of the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon and tuna, is it possible that the mainstream media is growing tired of such news?

In late July, two more studies linking seafood consumption to heart and brain health were released. However, both were noticeably absent from the mainstream media.

Research that omega-3s help prevent cardiovascular disease, dementia and other heart and brain ailments isn’t new information. According to the IFICF survey, 85 percent of consumers are aware of the relationship between omega-3s and the reduced risk of heart disease. Additionally, 79 percent are familiar with the relationship between omega-3s and a fortified immune system, and 73 percent are aware of the relationship between omega-3s and cognitive development.

Elizabeth Rahavi, IFICF’s associate director of health and wellness, said the key to keeping the media interested in studies related to seafood’s health benefits is to focus on new and emerging research.

“Consumers definitely tell us that their top source of information is the mainstream media, followed by friends and family and health and medical professionals. It’s very important to have the commitment to science and research on emerging relationships around seafood and health,” said Rahavi. 

For example, in early August, research claiming that eating seafood while pregnant can increase babies’ immune systems was picked up by multiple news outlets, including the Washington Post, USA Today and Time.

“I think that speaks to continuing to look at emerging areas related to seafood and health and not just … brain and heart health. Continuing to fund research in emerging areas is going to drive more media interest,” said Rahavi. “And the media is still the best way to get those messages out.”

Rahavi doesn’t believe that the mainstream media has seafood-and-health fatigue quiet yet. However, Rahavi urged the industry to increasingly look to health professionals and social media to get the word out about seafood’s health benefits.

Hopefully, with more new and emerging research, the mainstream media will continue to shine a light on seafood’s growing list of health benefits.

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