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Concerns on health effects of farmed, wild fishes

By Stanley Akpunonu
06 August 2020   |   4:19 am
Experts have advised on consumption of fish and its derived products for the prevention of cardiovascular and other diseases.


Experts have advised on consumption of fish and its derived products for the prevention of cardiovascular and other diseases.

Cardiovascular relates to the circulatory system, which comprises the heart and blood vessels and carries nutrients and oxygen to the tissues of the body and removes carbon dioxide and other wastes from them.

Fish consumption has robustly increased during the recent decades but world fish stocks are limited. As an alternative, farmed fish are now proposed to consumers.

However, debates have been raised on the health implications of both farmed and wild fishes as regards cardiovascular diseases among others, but researches have not revealed any significant difference between wild and farmed fish.

Several studies have shown that fish is a very important part of a healthy diet. Fishes are the major sources of healthy long-chain omega-3 fats, high in protein, rich in other nutrients such as vitamin D and selenium, and low in saturated fat. Again, scientists have demonstrated that the consumption of fat in fish is of importance because they contribute to the reduction of cardiovascular diseases and lead to an improvement in learning ability.

Fishmeal also lowers blood pressure and heart rates, improve blood vessel function, at higher doses, lower triglycerides and may ease inflammation.

Meanwhile, to meet these demands, most people now have fish farms to provide food for consumption, employment and financial income, and a food source when other sources are out of season.

However, concerns have been raised on the health implications of eating both wild and farmed fishes.

A review of ‘Safety and Quality Concerns Associated with Fish Production’ noted that with the increased use of veterinary drugs in food production, there is global concern about the consumption of low levels of antimicrobial residues in aquatic foods.

Also, according to a recent study published in the journal of the American Deictic Association, mercury levels in fish can be worrying but the levels are low enough to be non-toxic to humans. The study noted wild fishes do have a significantly higher level of mercury than farm-raised fish. Also farm-raised fish have lower levels of Omega 3, which are good nutrient compared to wild fish.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that the potential hazards associated with the presence of antimicrobial drug residues in edible tissues of products from aquaculture include allergies, increased toxicity, changes in colonisation patterns of human-gut flora and acquisition of drug resistance in pathogens in the human body increased cancer risks and changed nutrient levels.

However, Professor of Aquaculture, the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, Fagbenro Oyedapo, stated that the use of antibiotics has been banned in fish farming worldwide.

He added that fishes in the wild obtain nutrients from foods in their habitat while cultivated or farmed fishes obtain nutrients from feed fed to them and the requirement or each nutrient varies with fish species as well as their physiology conditions.

Meanwhile, a study titled ‘Farmed and wild fish in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases: Assessing possible differences in lipid nutritional values’ notes that the lipid composition of farmed fish is largely dependent on the fatty acid composition of the feedstuff. Thus, farmed fish, if raised in proper conditions, can provide a nutritional composition at least as beneficial in particular for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases as wild fish with the same advantages of freshness and apparent non-toxicity.

The study postulates that the diet fed to farmed fish affects the parameters determining the quality of the fish like its texture, appearance, smell, taste and pigmentation.

Wild fishes eat plankton, benthos, small animals and algae living on the bottom of the sea, and other fishes. Farmed fishes are fed compound feeds, formulated on the basis of multiple studies conducted in laboratories and experimental farms. Fishmeal is the main ingredient in these feeds.

Oyedapo added that consumption of fish should be encouraged and be included in diets at all stages of human growth and development.

He further added that consumption of fish products provide needed proteins, minerals and vitamins towards good health and wellness or humans.

The expert urged fish farmers should be encouraged to provide nutritionally complete feeds to their fish stocks in order to meet the nutritional requirements farmed fish species.

“There are no apparent differences in health benefits of wild fish and cultivated fish consumption by humans, as long as the fish is fresh that is without spoilage.

“Fishes are rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids, while plant matter contains relatively higher amounts o omega 6 fatty acids. Both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are beneficial and are required in human diets towards optimal development,” Oyedapo added.

He stressed that good nutrition is the foundation for better health and awareness.

Similarly, the National Administrative Secretary/Media Officer Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals Chikodi Godwin Ogbonna said that all fish are good for consumption.

The nutritionist added that sea animals do not contain heavy metal aside shrimps, crayfish among others. However, he noted that farmed fish sometimes due to the chemical composition of its feed might pose some health implications.

He also highlighted the need to seek the counsel of a dietician to ascertain the proper amount of seafood to be consumed at any given time.

Ogbonna stated that some fish farmers engage in corrupt practices by feeding the fish thyroid and oxygen and as a result might be injurious to the health but the wild fish is very good.

He stressed that fish is more preferable to meat because of its low cholesterol content and presence of omega 3 fatty acid, anything fish is good or consumption be it from the wild or farmed.

Nevertheless, Ogbonna cited that wild fishes that are sometimes caught and stored with chemical like gamelan 20, which can be harmful to the body; it is not good to be consumed.

Though, he added that fishing with chemicals is no longer vogue because the government has placed sanctions on defaulters.

The expert said: “Fish is very advisable or the older generation, the omega. Fish is packed with many nutrients that most people are lacking. This includes high-quality protein, iodine, and various vitamins and minerals.

“Fatty species are sometimes considered the healthiest. That is because fatty fish, including salmon, trout, sardines, tuna, and mackerel, are higher in fat-based nutrients. This includes vitamin D, a fat-soluble nutrient that many people are lacking. Fish also boast omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for optimal body and brain function and strongly linked to a reduced risk of many diseases and to meet your omega-3 requirements, eating fatty fish at least once or twice a week is recommended.”