When fish can make your heart problems worse

April 01, 2008
Volume 05    |   Issue 12

Fish is supposed to be good for you, right? It?s full of healthy oils that are great for your heart. But you probably already know that all fish are not alike. The amount and quality of the fats found in their oils depends largely on which foods they eat. Fish from oceans and rivers get their food from their surroundings. This food is rich in marine oils. Conventional fish farmers, however, have found a cheaper solution. But, in this case, cheaper is not better. In fact, we now have evidence that most farm-raised fish can cause or worsen heart problems.

Fish food made from vegetable oils is just like any other kind of junk food. It?s not only less expensive, it stimulates the fishes? appetite and increases their size. The problem is farmed fish that eat feed made from vegetable oils no longer offer the good oils we need to stay healthy.

That?s what a young Norwegian veterinary student found when he chose this topic for his doctoral dissertation. Sverre Ludvig Seierstad took a long, hard look at any consequences that might occur when salmon eat food made with inexpensive vegetable oils rather than marine oils. He found that the composition of fats in farmed fish had no effect on the fishes? arteries. The fish appeared to be just as healthy as fish caught in the wild. But there was a difference in the arteries of people who ate the fish.

Seierstad gave heart patients with atherosclerosis three different fish-based diets. All ate salmon with varying amounts of fish oil and vegetable oil. The patients who ate fish containing pure fish oils had higher levels of omega-3 fats and lower markers for heart disease than those who ate the fish grown on vegetable oil-based food.

Buying fish caught in the wild is not just an environmental decision. It?s a decision that can affect your health. The next time you order fish in a restaurant, or buy some in your grocery store, ask whether or not it?s farmed. If it is, you need to evaluate whether or not it?s worth the price. Fish fed "junk food" won?t keep you healthy.

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Whole Foods is just one conscious company that?s making an exception to this rule of avoiding farmed fish. There?s a growing surge to farm fish responsibly - by giving them a healthy diet and avoiding antibiotics and hormones. So if you?re shopping in a health food store, ask them to tell you how their farmed fish are raised. They could be as healthy as those in the wild.

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