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Nutrition expert says: Eat more seafood

by the Fish Site Editor
27 April 2007, at 1:00am

NEW ZEALAND - One of the worlds most highly respected experts in human nutrition has linked a drop in seafood consumption with increases in mental health problems and heart disease.

Professor Michael Crawford has told a UK conference there is a direct link between the decrease of seafood in the diet in Scotland and the rise in mental ill health and heart disease.

Addressing delegates at “Aquaculture Today 2007” in Edinburgh last week, Dr Crawford said marine fats played a key role in brain development in evolutionary terms.

“The brain still depends on the same marine nutrients today for growth and development,” Dr Crawford said. “The marine food chain is by far the richest source of these nutrients.”

Referring to the fact that, during the 1800s, large sectors of the Scottish population ate a diet rich in herring or salmon, he said: “My interpretation of the demise of herring is that, having lost this tradition, I would certainly say from the evidence we have today that this has been a major factor in the rise in mental ill health.

“Scotland is now also one of the worst countries for cardio-vascular disease.”

Dr Crawford said he also supported international research findings that contradict advice from the UK Food Standards Agency and the US Food & Drug Administration that pregnant women should eat seafood no more than twice a week.

His said this advice was counter-productive rather than beneficial.

Dr Crawford agreed with the findings in reports published by the international medical journal, The Lancet*, where researchers said that higher maternal fish consumption during pregnancy benefits a child's neurological development.

“Summarising their results, the researchers said: ‘Maternal seafood consumption of less than 340 grams per week in pregnancy did not protect children from adverse outcomes. Rather, we recorded beneficial effects on child development with maternal seafood intakes of more than 340 grams per week, suggesting that advice to limit seafood consumption could actually be detrimental. These results show that risks from the loss of nutrients were greater than risks of harm from exposure to trace contaminants in 340 grams of seafood eaten weekly.’ ”

Statement welcomed

In Australia, Dr Crawford’s statement has been welcomed and endorsed by Seafood Services Australia (SSA) Managing Director Mr Ted Loveday.
Mr Loveday said SSA, a national industry-government body working to highlight the health benefits of seafood, welcomed this further confirmation of the important role of seafood in reducing the risk of illness, including mental illness.

“Community-wide consumption of seafood, particularly oily fish, three or more times a week would prevent thousands of premature deaths and save hundreds of millions of dollars in health costs every year,” Mr Loveday said. “For example, in adults, the risk of serious illness involving heart attack, stroke, diabetes and bowel cancer, as well as depression and other mood disorders, can be reduced by seafood, and it also plays a very positive role in the health of infants.

“Australia’s National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has already recommended replacing high-calorie, low-nutrient food and drink with foods rich in fats called long-chain Omega-3s, mainly fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel and mullet.

“Although they do not say how many times a week seafood should be eaten to achieve the recommended Omega-3 levels, it has been suggested by Australian researchers previously that four to five meals a week should be based on seafood, and a recommendation from the prestigious American Academy for the Advancement of Science was for four to seven seafood meals every week.”

Mr Loveday said seafood was by far the most abundant source of long-chain Omega-3 oils, with 100 grams of the average fish containing 210mg, oysters 150mg, prawns 120mg and lobster 105mg compared with just 22mg (twenty-two) in beef, 19mg in chicken, 18mg in lamb and virtually none in pork.

“Seafood is also the prime source of iodine, an essential element actually deficient in the average diet in some parts of Australia, the most abundant source of selenium, another essential element, and a rich source of the essential vitamins D and E plus, in fish like canned tuna and salmon with bones, a source of quality calcium,” he said.

“Beyond that, seafood is a terrific source of prime lean protein, very low in ‘bad’ fat like saturated fat but high in the Omega-3 ‘good oils’, and with a high protein-to-calorie ratio, important for everyone wanting quality protein but conscious of low-fat, low-calorie eating.”

Mr Loveday added that SSA had established a website where further information about the health benefits of seafood was available:
http://www.seafood.net.au/health/

the Fish Site Editor