Is it Safe to Eliminate Fish from Your Diet?
A lot of health gurus have convinced Americans that fish is necessary for a healthy diet. Wild caught deep-sea like salmon tend to have higher levels of Omega-3 fats which are anti-inflammatory and can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and many other chronic diseases.
But is fish itself a healthy food, or is it just the Omega-3 fats in fish that are healthful?
More and more studies recently are showing that fish is not a health food!
A research study looked at fish consumption in 5,000 men and women as part of the Rotterdam Study in the Netherlands. After 11 years, the researchers concluded that those who consumed the most fish did not have reduced risk of heart failure or dementia as compared to other study participants who did not consume as much fish.
Other articles have shown that eating fish increases the risk of prostate cancer and heart disease and have found no protective effects from eating fish.
The confusion over whether or not fish is needed in the diet is fueled by inaccurate statements about the need to consume fatty acids like EPA and DHA from food. But these are NOT essential fatty acids – only Omega-3s and Omega-6s are essential, and the body converts those to other fatty acids needed for body function like EPA and DHA.
So if someone tells you that you must eat fish to get EPA and DHA, they are wrong – your body will simply convert Omega-3 fats to DHA and EPA and other fatty acids as it needs to.
There are more in-depth articles about this topic from the Wellness Forum.
The people insisting you need to eat EPA and DHA from food are missing this crucial fact, that there are only two essential fatty acids which are Omega-6 fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids.
So the bottom line in terms of fish consumption is that wild caught fish can be included in the diet as part of a 10% or less of calories from animal food. But there is no need to include fish if you don’t like it and there are absolutely no negative effects of eliminating fish from your diet.
Other Reasons to Be Careful of Fish
Unfortunately our oceans are extremely polluted with hundreds of thousands of man-made chemicals. Many of these chemicals leach into the food supply and are found in fish.
Furthermore, these toxins are concentrated in the fish through the process of bio-concentration. Toxins and chemicals are stored in the body in fat, to protect the vital organs from the damage of these toxins. So these toxins get concentrated in the fat of fish. The higher up the food chain these fish are, the higher the concentration of these toxins. This is why many researchers recommend avoiding fish at the top of the food chain such as Tuna because they have much higher levels of mercury, PCBs and other toxins.
Fish can concentrate extremely high levels of these chemicals in their flesh and fat, as much as 9 million times that of the water in which they live.
Some of the most well-known and dangerous chemicals and toxins found in fish include PCB’s (Polychlorinated biphenyls). PCBs are known carcinogens and even though they have been banned for industrial use, they are still persistent in the environment, throughout the oceans and waters of the world.
Mercury in fish is mostly found as methylmercury, a highly toxic organic compound of mercury. Mercury toxicity can lead to a variety of disorders including cancer, autoimmune disorders, and death.
Lead is found in high levels in many fish and can lead to anemia and lead poisoning.
DDE is Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene, a byproduct of the pesticide DDT and known carcinogen. DDE is found in high amounts in fish due to bioconcentration.
The health consequences of exposure to all of the tens of thousands of toxins found in salmon is serious — the Environmental Working Group estimates that 800,000 people in the U.S. face an excess lifetime cancer risk from eating farm raised salmon.
So if you were wondering if it’s okay to avoid fish in your diet, that answer is a resounding yes! And it might even be better for you not to eat fish, or to at least reduce your consumption of fish to reduce your exposure to mercury, lead, PCBs, DDE and other contaminants.