Benefits of Eating Fish Need to be Better Communicated says World Health Organization

Report highlights danger of not eating enough seafood Report highlights danger of not eating enough seafood

A joint report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization says governments need to do a better job emphasizing the benefits of eating seafood to heart and brain health.

Seventeen nutrition and toxicology experts met at FAO Headquarters in January to create a report designed to help governments give scientifically-sound advice about the overall effects of eating fish. For the general population, they concluded eating fish lowers the risk of death from heart disease. For women of childbearing age, they concluded eating fish during pregnancy and breastfeeding lowers the risk of poor brain development in babies.

To more effectively communicate with their citizens, governments should emphasize CHD [coronary heart disease] mortality rates of not eating fish and neurodevelopmental risks to offspring of such women [women of childbearing age, particularly pregnant women and nursing mothers] not consuming fish, according to the Executive Summary of the report that was released by the FAO/WHO this week.

Fish provide only about seven percent of animal protein found in an average American diet, while in Asian countries that portion is more than 25 percent. An April 2009 study published in the Public Library of Science ranked low seafood intake as the second largest cause of diet-related deaths in America, just behind high salt consumption. The study estimated 84,000 deaths in the U.S. are linked to omega-3 deficiency caused by Americans not eating enough fish.

The report spotlights an incredibly healthy food that Americans seem to underestimate, said Jennifer McGuire, a registered dietitian with the National Fisheries Institute. What Im hearing from the scientists behind this publication is that not eating enough protein- and omega-3-packed fish has consequences on public health, and governments need to adjust their communications to reflect that reality.

The report comes at a time when federal nutrition experts are preparing to update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Largely overlooked in the past, the importance of eating seafood is expected to be addressed. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is under pressure to update its six-year-old seafood consumption advice.

Any questions about the safety and healthfulness of seafood are silenced by a report of this caliber, said McGuire. Were at the point where people can replace emotion-based misinformation with science-based advice that will help reverse the health problems associated with a typical low-seafood American diet.

For more than 60 years, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and its members have provided American families with the variety of sustainable seafood essential to a healthy diet. For more information visit:


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