Aquaculture America Keynote: Publicize Health Benefits

Published on
February 17, 2009

The farmed fish industry should publicize the health benefits of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are highlighted in reputable new studies, said Jay Whelan, the keynote speaker at Aquaculture America 2009 in Seattle. The annual World Aquaculture Society’s Aquaculture America conference runs from 15 to 18 February.

In fact, the level of omega-3s in farmed fish is as high as that in wild fish, contrary to a highly-criticized study released last year, says Whelan, head of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s department of nutrition.

Aquaculture producers “should feel good about the product they are selling and investing in,” he said. “The research being presented is more and positive about the health benefits” of farmed fish.

For example, a paper published in the journal Nutrition in 2008 showed that the risk of cardiovascular disease is significantly reduced in people who consume fish oils. The studies linking the benefits of omega-3s and cardiovascular development are strongest, while the research linking omega-3s and cognitive function in older adults is getting stronger, said Whelan.

Instead of positive information like this being highly publicized, the farmed fish industry has been plagued by studies alleging that wild salmon contains higher levels of omega-3s than farmed salmon.

Instead, Whelan shared with aquaculture producers a study from the journal Lipids, which showed a similar omega-3 contents in both farmed and wild Atlantic salmon.

In order to battle misperceptions about farmed fish, the industry needs to rely on more independent, third-party studies.

“They are going to have to ask … independent investigators to do studies for them, so they can get it in the literature,” said Whelan. “There have been recent papers that farmed-raised salmon had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and wild. If that is true, then they [producers] need independent investigators to re-do those results and verify that this is the case.”

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