An interesting article was just published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggesting that farm raised tilapia may have more detrimental effects than health promoting effects in terms of cardiovascular health. The study out of Wake Forest looked at 30 samples of farm raised fish from supermarkets and wholesalers. The fish they examined were catfish, Atlantic salmon, trout and tilapia. The trout and salmon contained favorable omega 6:omega 3 ratio (i.e. low omega 6, high omega 3), but the catfish and tilapia had a high ratio of omega6:omega 3.
Now this doesn’t mean that we should go out and buy trout and salmon because they show a favorable fatty acid profile. Farm raised fish have all sorts of problems as has been published over the past few years. Although the fatty acid profile may be favorable (as was reported in the Wake Forest study) the farm raised fish in contain a high amount of contaminents such as heavy metals which was not discussed in the study.
So what is one to do? We are told to eat fish because it is good for us. However besides the heavy metal and toxic problems there is the over-fishing issue. The EDF lists their best and worst fish which is a useful purchasing guide. Here in New England the striped bass have made a reasonable recovery and the season has just started for them. Another good New England fish is the bluefish, however you’ve got to get it fresh else it stinks!!! Sardines are an easy way to get good protein and omega-3s. But I digress….
Whole Foods claims that they do a lot of research into the sources of their fish. This research study doesn’t state whether they purchased at Whole Foods or not, but I’d be curious if WFs tilapia is of better quality. The bottom line is to know your fish and know your supplier and be conscious of your fish purchases. And of course you can just take fish oils for the DHA benefits!
Licensed Dietitian / Nutritionist