Over our lifetime dietary advice has changed substantially in response to accumulated information. In a sense, it’s amazing how slow we are to learn about such an obvious relationship between the body and health. The latest accumulated recommendations are compiled in a federal report issued this summer. The full report is available at https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/2020-advisory-committee-report.
The report gives significant attention to the role of seafood in the diet and this blog post summarizes the findings and recommendations. As background and introduction, it may be helpful to emphasize that most research, discussion and publication of dietary impact of seafood over the past decade or more has focused on two primary issues: 1) the positive cognitive/neurological development impact of omega-3 fatty acids, and 2) the negative effects of toxins from human pollution referred to as heavy metals ling-lived organic compounds and that are absorbed in fish tissue and then ingested by humans who eat fish. Both are significant concern for seafood harvested locally in the Delaware Bay.
The latest report confirms that the scientific literature supports the health benefits of seafood consumption alone or as part of an overall dietary pattern across life stages. However, concern remains over ingestion of toxins contained in seafood. Earlier reports concluded that the health benefits from consuming seafood outweigh the risks associated with potential toxins , including exposure to methylmercury and persistent organic pollutants.
In the latest federal dietary recommendations significant attention is given to the relationship between seafood consumption at various life stages and the health risks associated with coronary vascular disease and cognitive/neurological development. The conclusion of the federal report is that there is insufficient evidence to establish the relationships – either positive or negative – with seafood overall. Specifically, “no conclusion regarding the relationship between seafood consumption during childhood and adolescence and academic performance, ADD or ADHD, anxiety and depression, and ASD could be drawn due to an inadequate number of studies and variation in outcome assessment and child age”. (Emphasis added)
The report does conclude that “Intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA from food sources such as seafood and algae, lowers blood triglycerides, and in adults, is associated with lower risk of CVD”. CVD is the abbreviation used in the report for cardio-vascular disease. In other words, the report confirms what we knew about omega-3s.
The report’s overall conclusion on seafood: “Choices of fish and seafood with emphasis on species higher in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and with low methylmercury and are advised, following Federal and local fish and seafood advisories”. The emphasis on local fish advisories is important; that’s been the focus of most of my reading and commentary over the years. I also want to emphasize two things:
- Our primary local Delaware Bay seafood products – oysters and crabs – are not associated with the seafood products in the category of higher risk of toxins and are associated with the positive health benefits of seafood.
- The three species harvested locally that are associated with higher risk of toxins – striped bass, bluefish and perch – do have dietary consumption recommendations and the risk can be reduced through cooking procedures. Specifically, the recommendation is to avoid cooking or ingesting the dark tissue areas.