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Farm-raised salmon – like wild salmon – is an excellent lean protein to incorporate in your diet. Nutrition experts indicate that salmon is an excellent source of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, and that regular consumption reduces the chance of heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, and also plays an important role in prenatal health and a child’s development.
The largest percentage of salmon raised in B.C. is Atlantic salmon. Each species of salmon: Pink, Chum, Coho, Sockeye, Chinooks, and Atlantics each have different nutritional profiles. Atlantic salmon ranks near the top in the amount of Omega-3, and is low in saturated fats.
The Canada Food Guide recommends consuming at least two 75 g servings of fish per week, and the Institute of Medicine recommends 100 to 160 milligrams of DHA/EPA per day. However, for people with heart disease, the recommendations increase to 500 mg or more per day.
The combination of DHA and EPA, found in oily fish such as salmon, has been shown to help protect against heart related illnesses. Omega-3s help to lower triglycerides (a type of blood fat that is linked to heart disease) and prevent plaque build-up in the arteries and blood clots – reducing the risk of stroke.
Heart disease is among the leading causes of mortality in North America (Statistics Canada, 2011, US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011) and, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, heart disease and strokes represent two of the three leading causes of death, with 9 out of 10 Canadians having at least one risk factor. A 2006 study by Mozaffarian and Rimm, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that people who consumed at least two meals of a fatty fish per week (approximately 250 mg of EPA and DHA per day) have a 36% lower risk of fatal heart disease. In addition, a recent study published by the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) found that if all Canadians ate fish based on the Canada Food Guide recommendations, approximately 5,800 deaths could be avoided every year.
DHA is widely recognized as the physiologically essential nutrient and the building block for normal brain functioning – including learning, cogitative abilities and memory – and has also been found to have a wide range of impacts on neurological diseases. Deficiencies, for example, have been found in patients with neurological conditions, such as depression (Horrocks and Yeo 1999).
2012 research published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, (by Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas, of Columbia University), suggests that eating foods rich in Omega-3s, such as salmon, can be associated with lower blood levels of a protein related to Alzheimer’s Disease. The study found that the more Omega-3 fatty acids a person took in, the lower their blood beta-amyloid levels. Consuming 1000 mg of Omega-3s per day – approximately half a fillet of salmon per week – is associated with 20 to 30 per cent lower blood betaamyloid levels.
Omega-3 fatty acid intake is associated with improving rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). Low in saturated fat and high in DHA/EPA, salmon helps decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are linked to promoting inflammation. For example, Omega-3 metabolites inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines, or proteins, responsible for arthritic pain (Zainal et al. 2009).
Salmon consumption during pregnancy and lactation has a range of benefits to a child’s brain development. These positive effects persist beyond infancy to influence cognition in later childhood. Omega-3s are also essential in nervous system development. DHA in particular is also critical for normal eye and vision development in infants. According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, for normal brain and neurological development, infants should obtain the benefit of Omega-3s early in their life, from pregnant or nursing mothers who consumed fish.
A recent study published by the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety concluded that the “net effects of the present average fish consumption in Norway for adults including pregnant women is beneficial for specific cardiovascular diseases (particularly cardiac mortality, but also with regard to ischaemic stroke, non-fatal coronary heart disease events, congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation), as well as for optimal neurodevelopment of foetus and infants.” The current national dietary guideline includes eating fish 2 to 3 times per week, with at least 200g of fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and herring. In addition, they believe that adults consuming less than one serving of fish per week would miss out on the health benefits.
B.C. farm-‐raised salmon (Chinook, Coho and Atlantic) are low in Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), mercury (far below levels that could adversely impact health), dioxins, and other unwanted contaminants.
The CFIA regularly monitors farm-‐raised salmon to ensure that it is safe to eat, and they have found level of PCBs averages around 0.014 parts per million (ppm) compared to the allowable levels of 2 ppm. In addition, a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health – published in The Journal of the American Medical Association – found that levels of PCBs and dioxins in fish species are low – similar to other commonly consumed foods such as beef, chicken, pork, eggs, and butter.
Although PCBs are found in the environment in extremely small quantities and are present in many of our daily meal choices, all these foods remain safe to eat. Neither Health Canada nor the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) recommend any consumption limits on any foods because of dioxins or PCBs. In fact, the United Nations World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization recommends that people eat more oily fish, such as salmon, because the proven health benefits far outweigh any perceived risks from dioxins or PCBs. There is also little accumulation of unwanted contaminants, such as mercury, because a salmon is a fast growing fish.
“Metal concentrations in farmed and wild salmon from British Columbia, Canada, were relatively low and below human health consumption guidelines. Methylmercury in all salmon samples (range, 0.03-‐0.1 microg/g wet wt) were below the 0.5 microg/g guideline set by Health Canada. Negligible differences in metal concentrations were observed between the various species of farmed and wild salmon. Our findings indicate farmed and wild British Columbia salmon remain a safe source of Omega-‐3 highly unsaturated fatty acid intake for cardioprotective and, possibly, other health benefits." (Kelly et al., 2008. Mercury and other trace elements in farmed and wild salmon from B.C.)