Eating fish has multiple health benefits

Facts stack up in favor of eating fish, says Harvard expert at AquaVision meeting
September 29, 2006

US expert confirms that eating fish has multiple health benefits 

When Dr Eric Rimm and colleagues from the School of Public Health at Harvard University reviewed the published data on fish and health, they reached a clear conclusion: the health benefits of eating fish greatly outweigh the possible risks.

Speaking at the sixth AquaVision conference at Stavanger in Norway, Dr Rimm gave delegates a brief glimpse of the comprehensive review that will be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October. While not giving away too many details, he could assure his audience the facts stacked up in favor of eating fish.

Top of the list of benefits is the clear superiority in heart health among people that frequently eat fish or take omega-3 fatty acid supplements compared with population groups that do not. Other clear benefits relate to conditions such as ischemic stroke, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, diabetes, prostate cancer, cognitive function and child development.

People providing fish to consumers have a great story to tell, he said, and they do not tell it often or strongly enough. At the same time, the few negative aspects that are reported always receive disproportionate media attention, while the fact is that not eating fish or taking the supplements represents an even greater risk. That is why the World Health Organization, the US Government and other authorities recommend eating fish twice a week. However, their recommendations are often difficult to find, which is why the message needs get out.

Dr Rimm was speaking on day two of the AquaVision conference. Other speakers on the day covered a wide range of topics including the rapid development of aquaculture in the Far East and the way that financial institutions look at aquaculture as a potential for investment.

Dr Jonathon Shepherd of the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation explained that increasing knowledge in feed formulation and aquaculture technology meant that the sector could continue its predicted growth without over-using marine resources for fishmeal and fish oil. Finally, Habib Essid of the International Olive Council told delegates how working together enabled olive growers and processors to achieve a huge increase in their markets.

In his closing remarks, Wout Dekker, CEO of Nutreco, said this AquaVision had left him in a very optimistic mood and invited delegates back for the seventh AquaVision in Stavanger in 2008.
AquaVision 2006, the sixth in this increasingly successful series of aquaculture business conferences, wa opened in Stavanger, the aquaculture capital of Norway, by Crown Prince Haakon of Norway

“Aquaculture offers a means of providing people around the world with healthy nutritious food," he said." In addition, it flourishes where conditions are optimum and that tends to be in remote rural areas, where it brings employment and income. In many developing countries aquaculture is contributing significantly to the expansion of their economies. As the Food and Agriculture Organization has observed, it is the only means by which the world of tomorrow can be provided with fish.”

The Crown Prince addressed a record attendance of more than 450 delegates from over 30 countries and representing all major and many emerging aquaculture regions around the world. He pointed out that although man has cultured fish for over 3,000 years, in recent decades it has become a modern industry. In just 40 years it has progressed from a secondary source of income to a major activity in many coastal communities. In Norway, for example, now 40% of seafood exports are from aquaculture.

However, the Crown prince said, “aquaculture has some real challenges such as fish health, control of escapes and sustainability; not over exploiting the natural resources that it uses.

“I know that you will address these challenges at this conference and I congratulate BluePlanet and its partners for the initiative to move this important industry forward,” the Crown Prince concluded.

Following his opening speech, Crown Prince Haakon stayed until mid-afternoon to listen to several presentations. These included one from the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries, who focused in particular on food safety and the means of ensuring and documenting that fish from aquaculture is of the highest standards in safety, nutrition and eating quality.

AquaVision 2006 is organised in Stavanger, Norway September 25-27 by BluePlanet, Marine Harvest and Nutreco.