Pill Popping Doesn’t Replace Fish


Steven Hedlund

Published on
December 7, 2008

The popularity of fish oil supplements is exploding — U.S. consumers are expected to drop more than $500 million on fish oil pills this year, up from $359 million in 2005 and just $35 million in 1995, according to the Nutrition Business Journal.

Fish oil supplement consumption has grown steadily since the 1980s, when researchers discovered that the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and herring are essential to human health, particularly heart health. The American Heart Association advises consumers to eat fish twice a week to improve heart health.

Some consumers opt for the convenience of shelf-stable fish oil supplements. Maybe they’re afraid to prepare fish, or maybe they just dislike the taste. Whatever the reason, New Zealand researchers say they’re missing out on seafood’s healthful attributes, which extend beyond omega-3s.

Researchers at Massey University’s Institute of Food, Health and Human Nutrition compared a group of volunteers that each ate a 120-gram portion of salmon twice a week with a group that took fish oil pills. While the groups had similar omega-3 levels in their blood, the group that ate salmon significantly increased its selenium levels, the researchers revealed late last week.

Selenium is a crucial antioxidant associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, they said. It is also known to protect against the toxicity of methylmercury, which is found in relatively high levels in long-living, predatory fish.

There will always be a certain percentage of the population that refuses to eat fish. But some consumers may simply be unaware of what they’re missing out on by only popping fish oil pills. Don’t let these consumers slip through your fingers by failing to give them the information they need to make educated buying decisions.

Best regards,
Steven Hedlund
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business

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