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Tilapia in a Pool of Controversy

by Ellen Hardy
12 August 2008, at 1:00am

US - Mild-tasting tilapia has been caught in a net of controversy. In 2001 tilapia was barely on the chart of commonly eaten fish, but by 2006 it was No. 5 in popularity.

With fame comes scrutiny says the Miami Herald. According to them the July 2008 article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association examined the fatty acid content of farmed-raised fish. The researchers measured the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. As expected, tilapia had very low levels of omega 3 fatty acids.

What these authors found more troubling was the high amount of omega 6 fatty acids in the tilapia, particularly arachidonic acid, that they say makes it a poor choice for the heart-conscious. In terms of arachidonic acid, the authors compare tilapia, unfavorably, with 80 percent lean beef or a doughnut.

"Nonsense," says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard Medical School, who has co-authored many studies on the risk and benefits of fish. "Dietary omega 6 fatty acids have not been shown harmful to humans." But Mozaffarian and the study's authors agree that increased omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon, mackerel, halibut and sardines will decrease the risk factors of heart disease.

Ellen Hardy