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Science Shock: Salmon’s Food Choices Better at Reducing Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

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Salmon: Rich in Health Benefits, Yet May Offer Less Nutritional Value – This is What You Should Eat Instead

New Findings: Not Salmon But Its Food Choices Can Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke Better

New research indicates that the fish commonly used in the feed for farmed salmon could offer valuable health benefits if included in our own diets. While urging the public to consume more wild fish such as mackerel, anchovies, and herring – primary components of salmon feed – scientists highlight the loss of essential nutrients when solely consuming salmon fillets.

The study reveals a reduction in vital dietary nutrients during farmed salmon production, including calcium, B12, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for cardiovascular health. Researchers stress that incorporating a variety of wild ‘feed’ species directly into our diets could not only improve overall health but also alleviate the strain on finite marine resources caused by aquaculture demands.

Analyzing the nutrient flow from wild fish species to farmed salmon, the study found diminished levels of six out of nine key nutrients in salmon fillets, while selenium and zinc showed increases. Most notably, wild ‘feed’ fish contain a comparable or greater density and range of micronutrients compared to farmed salmon fillets, making them a valuable addition to our plates.

Lead author Dr. David Willer from the Zoology Department at the University of Cambridge suggests, “Whilst still enjoying eating salmon and supporting sustainable growth in the sector, people should consider eating a greater and wider variety of wild fish species like sardines, mackerel and anchovies, to get more essential nutrients straight to their plate.”

In the UK, 71% of people have inadequate vitamin D throughout the winter, while young girls often have iron, iodine, and selenium deficiency. While 24% of individuals reported eating salmon once a week, just 5.4% reported eating mackerel, 1% anchovies, and 0.4% herring.

“Making a few small changes to our diet around the type of fish that we eat can go a long way to changing some of these deficiencies and increasing the health of both our population and planet,” Willer added.

They discovered that the most effective method of maximizing nutrients from the sea would be to directly consume one-third of the present food-grade wild feed fish.

“Marine fisheries are important local and global food systems, but large catches are being diverted towards farm feeds. Prioritising nutritious seafood for people can help improve both diets and ocean sustainability,” added senior author Dr James Robinson, Lancaster University.

The experts from the Universities of Aberdeen, Lancaster, Stirling, and Cambridge suggest that this strategy may be useful in addressing worldwide nutritional deficits.

The research was published today in the Nature Food journal.

Researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis to evaluate the nutrient composition of wild fish used in pelleted salmon feed in Norway against that of farmed salmon fillets.

Focusing on nine key nutrients crucial for human health, including iodine, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids, researchers examined Pacific and Peruvian anchoveta, Atlantic herring, mackerel, sprat, and blue whiting – all commonly consumed seafood.

Results indicated that these six wild feed species boasted either equal or higher concentrations of nutrients compared to farmed salmon fillets.

Notably, calcium levels were more than five times higher in wild fish fillets, while iodine, iron, omega-3, vitamin B12, and vitamin A were over 1.5 times higher.

Although vitamin D content was comparable between wild feed species and salmon, zinc and selenium were found in greater quantities in farmed salmon. Researchers attribute this difference to additional ingredients in salmon feed, marking a significant advancement in the industry.

Dr. Richard Newton from the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling added, “Farmed salmon is an excellent source of nutrition, and is one of the best converters of feed of any farmed animal, but for the industry to grow it needs to become better at retaining key nutrients that it is fed. This can be done through more strategic use of feed ingredients, including from fishery by-products and sustainably-sourced, industrial-grade fish such as sand eels.”

“It was interesting to see that we’re effectively wasting around 80% of the calcium and iodine from the feed fish – especially when we consider that women and teenage girls are often not getting enough of these nutrients.”

Source: 10.1038/s43016-024-00932-z

Image Credit: Getty

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