While one-third (33 per cent) of US households take fish oil supplements, more consumers (90 per cent) across all generations associate health benefits with fish/seafood over fish oil supplements (82 per cent).
According to the study, the top three benefits consumers associate with seafood consumption are heart health (60 per cent), low fat (49 per cent) and brain health (41 per cent).
Recent research shows consumer perception to be correct: eating whole fish is more nutritious than consuming a fish oil supplement. Studies show that adding fish oil alone to the diet does not necessarily improve cardiovascular disease risk or cognitive health, two of the health benefits most cited by consumers in the survey.
Fish provides healthy oils that are absorbed around nine times more than oils from a fish oil supplement.
Researchers recommend consumers follow the American Heart Association guidelines and incorporate a variety of oily fish into their diet at least twice a week to get the recommended amount of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
"It's clear that making fish and seafood a regular part of your meal plan has tremendous health benefits," said Dr Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, MS, RDN, FACSM, and FAND Nutritionist & Exercise Physiologist.
"A proper diet that includes fish protein, in addition to other healthy lifestyle behaviours, will go a long way in promoting overall health."
Results of the survey are also in line with industry data that suggests the demand for fish is growing, driven by an increasing and more affluent global population that understands the health benefits of eating seafood. Seafood demand is expected to increase by 70 per cent by 2050, and it's a demand Cargill and the industry are working to satisfy.
"Fish is clearly an important source of healthy protein and it's encouraging that consumers know the real benefits of eating seafood," said Einar Wathne, president of Cargill Aqua Nutrition.
"We are anticipating that further advances in aquaculture nutrition will ensure that fish and seafood are going to play a significant role in satisfying the world's protein needs and in providing health and nutrition benefits to a growing population in the years ahead."