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New Study Reveals Tilapia Can Damage The Heart More Than Bacon

A recent study completed by Wake Forest University School of Medicine has left a bad taste in many tilapia fans’ mouths by suggesting that farm-raised variety is likely worse for you than eating bacon.


Risk Of Salmonella

There’s a nasty report that Chinese farm-raised tilapia are exposed directly to the feces of other farm animals as part of their daily diet. This means that there's a good chance that the import is tainted with unacceptable levels of bacteria such as salmonella and other deadly microbes which could make you very sick.

High Levels Of Antibiotics and Pesticides

Farmed fish are more susceptible to disease than the wild varieties. In crowded pens they are given antibiotics to he keep them "healthy". They are also given regular doses of pesticides to kill sea lice.

The pens are also near the shore where pollutants are at a higher concentration versus out in the open water. Storm water runoff carries pollutants in to water where the fish absorb them into their bodies.

Lack Of Heart Healthy Nutrients

Another reason why farm-raised tilapia isn’t as good for you as you think is the fact that many have excessive levels of a type of fatty acid that is linked to brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s. The imbalance of “healthy” omega-3’s and omega-6’s is believed to be due to their diet in captivity.

In the wild, tilapia eat plants and other fish, creating the optimal omega balance. In captivity, they’re fed a diet that’s mostly soy and corn-based. This upset in the food chain makes a perfectly healthy food potentially dangerous, especially when eaten in large quantities.

The quality of farm-raised fish can really vary depending on the country in which its raised. A great deal of tilapia sold in the US is imported from China because it is very inexpensive. However, the conditions at some farms there can result in a product that is unhealthy, full of toxins and unregulated, meaning that bad fish makes its way into stores in the US.

Overcrowded pens, substandard food being fed to the fish and water that isn’t clean enough can all contribute to unhealthy, unsafe fish being sold for consumption by unknowing people across the globe.

Why It's Hurting Your Health

Farmed tilapia has been found to contain far less omega-3 fatty acid than other popular fish, including salmon and mackerel. Omega-3 acids help reduce inflammation and are often recommended for heart health as well as for arthritis. It is also believed to play a critical role in brain development and the prevention of Alzheimer’s.

lack of omega-3 makes farmed tilapia less effective at preventing disease than even bacon

Compared to other foods, this lack of omega-3 fatty acids makes it less effective than even bacon at reducing inflammation and preventing disease. While the study is quick to suggest that no one stop eating tilapia, the experts seem to agree that eating less of the farm-raised fish and eating more varieties that are higher in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is the best approach to getting the right blend of fatty acids in your diet.

It has become a popular choice for several reasons. Its mild taste and low cost make it popular among consumers. It’s also very easy to raise, gains weight quickly and breeds rapidly, allowing for greater numbers, faster. However, just because it is technically a fish, it doesn’t mean that it has the same nutritional value as wild tilapia.

It's Bad For The Environment Too

In those places where it's farmed in lakes, the large numbers of ‘factory fish’ mean the waters become polluted through overpopulation, disturbing the local ecosystem and directly affecting the wild species that once thrived there. (1)

If the process isn’t regulated more efficiently, it’s not just bad news for consumers, who could be eating “fake” fish that provides no real health benefits, it could also mean bad news for the other species that being affected by pollution from the tilapia farms.

Even if they are fed healthy food and kept in spotless tanks or pens, there’s still a negative impact on the planet, because it can take several pounds of smaller fish being fed to one tilapia to get a single pound of meat for consumption. This is a waste of protein that could be left in the wild, feeding the native fish that live there, and further disrupting the ecosystem.

How To Find Safe Tilapia

The key to safe consumption isn’t just eating less of it. It can definitely can be a healthy addition to your diet, but only if it is farmed responsibly and eaten in conjunction with wild fish that have a higher occurrence of omega-3 (2) and omega-6 fatty acids.

Consuming farm-raised tilapia in moderation, rather than replacing other omega-3 rich varieties with it, is a better approach than relying on the farm-raised food to meet your nutritional needs.

Don’t pass on the fish in favor of the bacon sandwich just yet. Shop responsibly for wild tilapia and eat several different varieties of seafood to ensure you get a healthy diet that’s full of the right mix of essential fatty acids, and not full of bacteria and poop.

For such a mild fish, the humble tilapia has certainly caused quite the stir. Popular for its mild flavor and low price, it has become a staple in many homes where families are trying to incorporate more fish into their diet. So don't get rid of it, just broaden your horizons a bit and don't be afraid to add a couple slices of bacon to you next fish sandwich.

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