Tilapia is one of the most widely consumed fish species in America. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans consume more than 475 million pounds of tilapia every year. This type of fish has become quite popular because it is affordable, easy to breed, and does not have the typical taste associated with most other species of fish. Moreover, most of the tilapia consumed in the US, as well as other parts of the developed world, comes from fish farms. This is because tilapia is only native to water bodies in Africa and the Middle East. However, some nutritional experts have raised questions about the benefits of eating tilapia. Read on to learn more about this topic.
Concerns about Tilapia
Most health practitioners recommend eating fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids such as wild Alaskan salmon, black cod, sablefish, mackerel, albacore tuna, or sockeye salmon. Even less expensive choices such as herring and sardines contain relatively high levels of omega-3. The problem with tilapia is it contains very low levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. This is according to a study carried out by researchers at Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine and published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Another study published in the same journal found that farm-raised tilapia contains high levels of arachidonic acid (AA).
One of the researchers involved in Wake Forest University study Dr. Floyd Chilton believes eating farm-raised fish might be dangerous for people suffering from health complications such as asthma, arthritis, and heart disease. This is because the high levels of omega-6 and arachidonic acid could cause such people to develop exaggerated inflammatory response, which is essentially an inflammation that causes serious damage to one’s lungs, digestive tract, as well as blood vessels.
In addition, there have been concerns about the type of feeds used in tilapia fish farms. Dr. Jeffrey McCrary, an American fish biologist working in Nicaragua, reckons that fish farming standards in Latin American countries and Asia fall below American food safety standards. This notwithstanding, Americans still import and eat large quantities of tilapia fish from Asia and South American countries.
Most fish farms use cheap corn–based feeds and soy instead of algae and marine plants. Furthermore, a report published in the New York Times states that some tilapia fish farms use testosterone and prophylactic antibiotics to feed young tilapia fish. At the same time, such farms tend to breed large numbers of tilapia in overcrowded fish cages which can lead to pollution of natural water reservoirs such as lakes.
Is Tilapia Healthy?
After reading the information provided above, one may think that there is nothing good about tilapia fish but that is not true. For instance, a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that Americans should not stop eating tilapia simply because it contains low levels of omega-3 and high levels of omega-6. One of the researchers involved in this study states that a 3-ounce portion of bacon contains a whopping 191 milligrams of bad fat. In comparison, a 3-ounce portion of tilapia contains anywhere from 67 to 134 milligrams of bad fat. Even the popular hamburger contains 34 milligrams of bad fat. This means that people who stop eating tilapia might end up ingesting more bad fat from other foods.
It is also important to note that tilapia has essential minerals such as potassium and calcium. According to the University Of Maryland Medical Center, a 4-ounce serving of tilapia contains 11.3 percent of the average person’s daily calcium requirements. This is in addition to providing 10 percent of one’s daily potassium requirements. What’s more, tilapia great source of protein. Research carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health found that a 4-ounce serving of tilapia fish provides 45 percent of one’s daily protein requirements. Moreover, proteins found in tilapia fish contain all the essential amino acids required by the body. Finally, tilapia contains heart-healthy unsaturated fats according to the Harvard School of Public Health. For instance, 4-ounces of tilapia fish meat contain 1.3 grams of unsaturated fat.
Overall, if you eat fish on a regular basis, it is up to you to decide whether tilapia should be part of your diet. Fortunately, you can use the findings of various scientific studies to guide your decision. Moreover, it is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to issue a warning to consumers to stop eating tilapia.