Fatty Acids, Health Claims – A Good Match?

Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the pool, now the government has decided to “allow” health claims for fatty acids. So if you were getting tired of seeing “low carb” on everything, now you can look forward to seeing contains EPA and DHA! Wowee!

Said FDA commissioner Lester M. Crawford, “The new qualified health claim for omega-3 fatty acids will empower consumers with more information to help combat this disease and improve their health by identifying foods that contain these important compounds,” Crawford said. Uh, right.

That brings us to the question of farmed fish. There will probably be a lot said about the question of the viability of the omega-3 fatty acids in farmed fish as opposed to wild fish. Here’s what CNN’s medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta had to say on the subject in a Nov. 7, 2002 interview:

Gupta: “One of the important things about fish in the wild is they eat a lot of smaller fish, who even eat smaller fish, who eat algae. This algae is really good ultimately for the fish; and for you when you eat it, because it has what is known as omega-3 fatty acids. That’s an important name to keep in mind, because that’s the fatty acid that’s good for you; it can actually lower your cholesterol. You’ll find a lot of that actually in wild fish.

[Additionally] there are 10 times as many PCBs in farmed fish. Basically, that’s a reflection of how much pesticides, antibiotics, other contaminants are used in raising these farmed fish. There’s higher pesticide levels in the farmed fish.”

Gupta went on to say, “You actually have to give them antibiotics [farmed fish]. And a lot of the PCBs and toxins are all part of the farming process that are used to try and keep these fish free of disease.”

Nice, huh? PCBs? Toxins? Yuck. Thanks, but no thanks.

So, yes, omega-3 fatty acids are a good thing, but don’t be fooled. Farmed fish is NOT equal to wild fish. Wild fish is clearly marked as being wild, while farmed rarely is marked at all. Farmed also usually has an unnatural pinkness to the flesh as they die it pink, so if you think it looks “better,” think again. Lest you be fooled, Atlantic salmon is farmed, BTW.

You can order wild fish through many sources including Ed Kasilof Seafoods, RainCoastTrading, and Alaska Fisherman’s Catch.