The American Heart Association tells us to eat fish twice a week in order to help keep our hearts healthy. This is because of the high Omega 3 fatty acid content in most fish. Tilapia is fish, so we should eat more, right? Wrong, a new study by researchers at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (Chilton et al, 2008), suggests that farm-raised tilapia may be worse for your heart than eating bacon or a hamburger. Tilapia has gained popularity in recent years as people try to pay attention to Omega 3 fatty acids by eating fish regularly.
Because farm-raised tilapia is often one of the most affordable varieties of fish available at the supermarket, tilapia has increased in popularity as consumers try to merge healthy eating habits with shrinking grocery budgets. Tilapia is easy to raise on fish farms because they thrive under a variety of conditions. Tilapia also do very well on inexpensive foods. This may be the root of the problem. Often, farm-raised tilapia are fed corn-based foods that are high in harmful Omega 6 fatty acids and arachidonic acid. The tilapia stores these arachidonic and Omega 6 fatty acids in its tissues for you to eat when you buy them in a store.
Negative Health Effects of Eating Farm-Raised Tilapia
The study’s senior author, Dr. Floyd Chilton, professor of physiology and pharmacology and director of the Wake Forest Center for Botanical Lipids, says, “A New England Journal of Medicine article three years ago said if you had heart disease and had a certain genetic makeup, and you ate arachidonic acid, the diameter of your coronary artery was smaller, a major risk factor for a heart attack.” He also cited numerous animal studies showing that dietary arachidonic acid is directly linked to adverse health reactions.
Unlike the healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, the Omega 6 fatty acids and arachidonic acid found in farm-raised tilapia can cause an inflammatory response in the body. Inflammation in the cardiovascular system can cause permanent injury and lead to hypertension, arteriosclerosis, and heart disease. The researchers also cited asthma, arthritis, and other conditions related to exaggerated inflammatory response as conditions that might be made worse by eating farm-raised tilapia.
Dietary Fish Recommendations
“Cardiologists are telling their patients to go home and eat fish, and if the patients are poor, they’re eating tilapia. And that could translate into a dangerous situation,” Dr. Chilton states. He recommends that dietary recommendations for fish intake should specifically exclude fish like farm-raised tilapia, which may do more harm than good. Farm-raised trout and salmon remain recommended choices due to their high Omega 3 fatty acid content.
Source: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Wake Forest Researchers Say Popular Fish Contains Potentially Dangerous Fatty Acid Combination,retrieved July 8th, 2008 from http://www1.wfubmc.edu/News/NewsARticle.htm?ArticleID=2400
Published by Brad Sylvester
Brad spent 18 years in the consumer electronics industry, including more than ten years in new product development. He now writes full time from his home in the mountains of New Hampshire.
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