Omega-3 Fatty Acids: How do edible invaders compare?

Omega-3 fatty acid content of some edible invasive fish compared to other commonly consumed fish. Data compiled from the NYT, Morris and others 2011, and Karapanagiotidis and others 2006.

On the front page of Monday’s New York Times, a remarkable amount of real-estate was was dedicated to “Another Side of Tilapia, the Perfect Factory Fish.”  This article does a great job highlighting some of the unintended consequences of the massive surge in tilapia production around the world in the last ten years or so.

In the article, one of author Elisabeth Rosenthal’s main points is that farmed tilapia isn’t as chock-a-block full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as, well, pretty much all other types of fish people consume.  And it got me thinking: What about some of the edible invasive fish we’ve highlighted?

Frankly, the raw omega-3 fatty acid numbers are not encouraging for tilapia and lionfish, but looking great for salmon.  It does not mean that tilapia and lionfish are unsafe, only that they are less than optimal.  There’s other issues though too.  Researchers say the ratio of mega-6:omega-3 fatty acids is a more important measure, which tends to make wild fish more beneficial than farmed fish in general.  So it’s more difficult to compare than either my figure, or Rosenthal’s, suggest.

One of the things we can hope comes from this news is that the enormous demand for tilapia, which drives it’s world wide invasion, may begin to abate.

Morris and others 2011
Karapanagiotidis and others 2006

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