Tilapia and salmon are some of the most popular fish in the United States and most people think of fish as healthy foods but farm raised fish is anything but healthy.
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Unhealthy Farm Raised Fish
The 2008 landmark study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association finally blew open the lid that Eating Tilapia is Worse Than Eating Bacon. The Wake Forest University researchers who wrote the article made it crystal clear how eating a supposed “health food” like farm raised fish is actually quite harmful for you. When comparing the 4 most commonly farmed fish, they discovered that tilapia (the fastest growing and most widely farm raised fish) and catfish contain the richest amount of Omega-6’s and have much lower concentrations of Omega-3’s. (1)
The reason this is so important is that, according to a study published in Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, our Omega-3:Omega-6 fatty acid ratio should be 1:1, which it isn’t by any stretch of the imagination in the U.S. According to their research:
“Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15/1-16.7/1. Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established.” (2)
In the past 50 years, this has led to a dramatic increase in most chronic diseases seen today including:
- Autoimmune disease
- Inflammatory disease
In the words of Wake Forest University researchers, the “marked changes in the fishing industry during the past decade have produced widely eaten fish that have fatty acid characteristics that are generally accepted to be inflammatory by the health care community.”
Yet, don’t think that the only danger is with tilapia. ALL farm raised fish is bad for you. Even our beloved Omega-3 rich salmon!
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Farm Raised Fish in Stores
Most salmon on the market today are farmed fish and this is important for two reasons:
First off, like we’ve seen above:
- Wild-caught salmon contain 10 times more Omega-3s than Omega-6s. (3)
- Farmed salmon have less than 4 times the amount of Omega-3s than Omega-6s.
- Wild salmon also contains 4 times as much vitamin D than farmed salmon.
Secondly, according to the non-profit watch dog organization Environmental Working Group (EWG),
“Seven of ten farmed salmon purchased at grocery stores in Washington DC, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon were contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at levels that raise health concerns, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group.” (4)
These first-ever tests of farmed fish like salmon from U.S. grocery stores shockingly point out the following:
- Farm raised salmon are most likely the highest PCB-contaminated protein source in the U.S. food supply.
- One serving of farmed salmon contains up to 40 times more PCBs than other foods.
- In fact, farmed salmon is 16 times more likely to contain the dioxin-like PCBs than wild-caught varieties, 4 times more than in beef, and 3.4 times more than in other seafood.
The Problem with PCBs in Fish
Banned in the U.S. in 1976, PCBs are persistent, cancer-causing chemicals that are among the “dirty dozen” toxic chemicals slated for global phase-out under the United Nations Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Known cancer-causing agents, PCBs have been linked to a wide variety of health issues including: (5)
1. Immune system disorders
Decreased thymus gland, Epstein-Barr virus, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, immune suppression.
2. Reproductive system disorders
Reduced birth weight, infertility, reduced sperm counts. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Effects in monkeys were long-lasting and were observed long after the dosing with PCBs occurred.” (5)
3. Nervous system disorders
Neurological development deficits, decreased visual recognition, short-term memory loss, learning impairment.
Farmed fish like salmon are fed contaminated food from a global supply of fishmeal that is full of PCBs. According to scientists, “While diets based on marine fish oils are currently favored by the aquaculture industry, it is likely that these oils are contributing greatly to the contamination of farmed salmon by [persistent organic pollutants].” (4)
It is important to understand that this is made possible because PCBs build up in salmon at rates 20 to 30 times the level in their environment and feed. (6) This is why an expert panel at the National Academy of Sciences made it a point to state that PCBs in fishmeal can accumulate in fish tissues, which are then transferred to us when we eat them. (4)
If this isn’t bad enough, these metabolism death foods can usually be found in most Fish Meal Labels for farm raised fish:
- Poultry meal
- Fish meal
- Poultry fat
- Fish oil
- Whole wheat
- Soybean meal
- Corn meal
- Gluten meal
- Feather meal
- Rapeseed oil
In addition to being filled with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), this mix of death foods leads to intentionally fattened farm raised fish containing 50% more fat than wild salmon and a concentration of Omega-6 fatty acids that is literally off the charts.
Other Contaminants of Farm Raised Fish
In addition, to PCBs and GMOs, farm raised fish have been shown to contain:
Known cancer causing and fetal endocrine system disruptors, dioxins are byproducts of industrial, waste treatment and disposal processes.
Banned officially as a life-threatening pesticide in 1982, toxaphene has been linked to damage of the lungs, nervous system, and kidneys.
Another banned pesticide, dieldrin is persistent in the environment, and contaminates dairy, fish and meat products. It is also a known carcinogen that greatly affects organ systems and immune function.
The bottom line is that there is absolutely nothing good about eating farm raised fish and if you eat it, you’re putting yourself and your family at great risk.
Importance of Eating Wild Caught Fish
On the other end of the spectrum, wild caught fish is filled with a cornucopia of heath benefits. In just 4 ounces of wild caught broiled Coho salmon, for instance, there is a considerable amount of nutrition to benefit from: (7)
- Vitamin B12 (236% daily recommended value)
- Vitamin D (127%)
- Selenium (78.3%)
- Vitamin B3 (56.3%)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (55%)
- Protein (53.1%)
- Phosphorus (52.1%)
- Vitamin B6 (37.6%)
- Iodine (21.3%)
- Choline (19.2%)
- Vitamin B5 (18.4%)
- Biotin (15.1%)
- Potassium (14%)
It is important to remember that when eating fish, it is critical to ensure that it is wild caught. Since a vast majority of tilapia is farm raised, I would recommend completely steering away from eating it even if the label says “wild caught.” Unfortunately, just because something is labeled “wild caught” doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. According to the most recent report by the U.S. Department of Commerce, “There’s a bit of a grey area here, too, —some ‘wild caught’ seafood actually starts its life in a hatchery.”
In a nutshell, just because the package says “wild caught” doesn’t mean that it’s good for you.
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Learn more in this article by Dr Jockers: Why I Don’t Eat Shellfish.