When it comes to tilapia, a new staple in kitchens and restaurants across the country, I have three words to offer you: Choose another fish!
According to the New York Times, Americans ate over 470 million pounds of tilapia last year, four times what we ate a decade ago. This once obscure African fish is now the most popular farmed fish in the United States. Worldwide, tilapia consumption is growing faster than all other fish consumption.
There are two particularly troubling facts about this fish. First, most tilapia is farmed in China or Central America. These regions barely regulate fish farming. Tilapia could not be farmed this way in the United States. This raises real questions about possible chemical contamination.
Second, laboratory research has shown that tilapia contains low levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. An average portion of tilapia has about 130 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, but a salmon portion has over 2000 mg.
Perhaps more importantly, tilapia has comparatively high concentrations of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and saturated fatty acids. Increased inflammation is one of the greatest dangers of the modern Western diet. Inflammation contributes to many of today’s most dangerous ailments and diseases.
Further, the fatty acid profile of tilapia is associated with increases in cholesterol and arterial plaques in both animals and humans. Cholesterol and plaque lead to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
In fact, a paper published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association warned about the dangers of this fish.
Unfortunately, because tilapia is inexpensive, readily available, and mild in flavor, consumers are buying this fish in record quantity—subscribing to the widely held belief that eating any fish is beneficial.
This leads to the important question: are we creating a health disaster in America?
Tilapia contains high levels of dangerous omega-6 fatty acids
Let’s shed more light on this fish. Simply put, the omega-6 content in tilapia is high. Omega-6 fatty acids have been shown to alter levels of inflammatory messengers, inducing whole-body inflammation. This can drive a number of inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancers.
Here’s what’s been found in the research lab
A research lab studied 30 commonly consumed farmed and wild fish, collected from supermarkets and wholesalers throughout the United States. They found that tilapia and catfish contained high levels of arachidonic acid (AA), an omega-6 fatty acid, and lower levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3.
The average ratio of omega-6 (AA) to omega-3 (EPA) in farm-raised tilapia was11:1. But there was a lot of variability. In fact, two fish samples harvested in Central America had 20 times more AA than EPA.
Folks, we can’t underscore enough how very far from optimal this is for our bodies.
Indeed, hundreds of human trials support the connection between an imbalance in omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory, as well as other, diseases.
The bottom line is this: By replacing beneficial omega-3s with omega-6s, we are not helping our bodies but likely harming them. This is essentially what we’re doing when we eat fish like tilapia,
One fish, two fish, which fish dish?
No one is suggesting you refrain from eating fish. Just the opposite. Extensive research shows that omega-3 containing fish are among the most beneficial foods on the planet. But you can make better choices when purchasing fish.
So what fish are better for you? Salmon is always a good bet. Other high omega-3 fish include mackerel, trout, coho salmon, sockeye salmon, Copper River salmon, trout, and albacore tuna.
Remember, our promise to you: we will always provide you with accurate information—based on the latest science—so that you can enjoy a healthy life to its absolute fullest.
In the meantime, please stay tuned for our next email, where you will read the latest on omega-3s and their ability to help offset heart disease.