Farmed Fish vs. Wild-Caught

Farmed Fish vs. Wild-Caught
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The levels of industrial pollutants found in aquaculture.

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Although the levels of dioxins and PCBs continue to decline, there is one dietary source that still remains a threat: fish. Everything eventually washes into the sea. Yes, we can get some from eating horses, but most of human dioxin exposure comes from eating fish. The World Health Organization puts the tolerable upper daily limit of intake at 1 picogram—one trillionth of a gram. As you can see, just eating dairy, and we’re already skirting with the max, and fish takes us straight over the top.

Everyone agrees that the omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA, found in fish, are healthy. But, given the industrial contaminants in fish, as a recent analysis in Food and Chemical Toxicology concludes: “If people choose to get their recommended long-chain omega-3 intake from fish, the majority of consumers would exceed the safety limits for dioxins and dioxin-like substances (like PCBs).”

And just like with eggs, factory-farmed fish have significantly more dioxins. In fact, for every toxin tested, farmed fish had higher levels of DDT, these other banned pesticides, over ten times more PCBs, and ten times more dioxins than wild-caught fish. Aquaculture fish can be considered farmed and dangerous.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Although the levels of dioxins and PCBs continue to decline, there is one dietary source that still remains a threat: fish. Everything eventually washes into the sea. Yes, we can get some from eating horses, but most of human dioxin exposure comes from eating fish. The World Health Organization puts the tolerable upper daily limit of intake at 1 picogram—one trillionth of a gram. As you can see, just eating dairy, and we’re already skirting with the max, and fish takes us straight over the top.

Everyone agrees that the omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA, found in fish, are healthy. But, given the industrial contaminants in fish, as a recent analysis in Food and Chemical Toxicology concludes: “If people choose to get their recommended long-chain omega-3 intake from fish, the majority of consumers would exceed the safety limits for dioxins and dioxin-like substances (like PCBs).”

And just like with eggs, factory-farmed fish have significantly more dioxins. In fact, for every toxin tested, farmed fish had higher levels of DDT, these other banned pesticides, over ten times more PCBs, and ten times more dioxins than wild-caught fish. Aquaculture fish can be considered farmed and dangerous.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

19 responses to “Farmed Fish vs. Wild-Caught

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  1. Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on industrial toxins. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

    And check out my associated blog post EPA dioxin limit has National Chicken Council worried products could be declared “unfit for consumption”.

  2. I buy farmed salmon from Whole Foods and feel okay with it.  Does cooking the flesh or making ceviche of it help reduce (e.g., neutralize) any of the toxins?

  3. The being “okay with it” means to say they appear about as clean as any average bear of the wild-caught variety, not to say they are as clean as the driven snow :-)

  4. The study shown in the video is too small (visually) – I can’t read the title of it.  On most of your other videos, the title of the study is clear, making it easy for me to obtain the study itself.  Could you please cite the title of this study, and the Journal it appeared in (I have access to most).  Thank you in advance. 

  5. Dr., Is there no distinction between fish farmed in pens in large bodies of water (oceans and lakes), those farmed inland in small ponds, and those farmed in concrete “ponds”? You also make no distinction between fish fed animal-based feed, e.g., salmon, and those fed plant-based feed, e.g., tilapia. The Monterey Aquarium puts out a list of fishes based on such criteria. Does the literature out there show no distinction in toxin levels between the type of facility in which farmed fish are raised and the food they are fed? Thank you.

    1. All the methods you describe have problems. I am aware of only one sustainable fish operation in the world… Veta La Palma. I would view the TED.com talk by Dan Barber: How I fell in love with a fish. Even if I had the opportunity to eat a fish from Veta La Palma I would pass for two reasons. You would have to know he content of the water to make sure that it didn’t contain mercury, arsenic and persistent organic pollutants. Of course even if the fish is free of those chemicals it would still have cholesterol and saturated fats. Fish is not a healthy food. By supporting the current fish industry you are supporting non-sustainable practices plus harming your health.

  6. Even lake trout in the Rocky Mountains have industrial pollutants like mercury in them. Some trout in Colorado you are advised not to eat more than once a month. You can’t meet your omega 3 needs on one serving of fish a month.

  7. 1. You cite only two studies, one of which is a simulated change in diet, no actual testing of fish. Therefore, the claims of the one study and your support are unverified

    2. You and one doctor below decry cholesterol without proof that it is really bad. Recent studies have shown that eggs, for example, are really healthy for you, that the cholesterol doesn’t count. You manufacture cholesterol and the bacteria in your teeth manufacture plaque. Please site the studies that support your claims about cholesterol.

    1. Dr. Greger has many videos on eggs
      http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/eggs/

      Hefty reads but sound The Myth of “The Cholesterol Myth.”

      http://www.pnas.org/content/110/37/14833.full
      http://www.pnas.org/content/110/37/14829.full

      .From the editor in chief of the American Journal of Cardiology.
      “As shown in Figure 1, most of the risk factors do not in themselves cause atherosclerosis [heart disease]…The atherosclerotic risk factors showing that the only factor required to cause atherosclerosis is cholesterol.”
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3603726/

      “Cholesterol plays an important role in steroid hormone and bile acid biosynthesis and serves as an integral component of cell membranes. Given the capability of all tissues to synthesize sufficient amounts of cholesterol for their metabolic and structural needs, there is no evidence for a biological requirement for dietary cholesterol. Therefore, neither an Adequate Intake nor a Recommended Dietary Allowance is set for cholesterol.

      There is much evidence to indicate a positive linear trend between cholesterol intake and low density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration, and therefore increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). A Tolerable Upper Intake Level is not set for cholesterol because any incremental increase in cholesterol intake increases CHD risk.”
      http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10490&page=542

      “Tolerable upper intake levels (ULs) set by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) are important, in part because they are used for estimating the percentage of the population at potential risk of adverse effects from excessive nutrient intake. The IOM did not set ULs for trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol because any intake level above 0% of energy increased LDL cholesterol concentration and these three food components are unavoidable in ordinary diets.”

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21521229

      In the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, David Spence (director of the stroke prevention/atherosclerosis research center and one of the worlds leading stroke experts), David Jenkins (the inventor of the glycemic index) and Jean Davignon (director of atherosclerosis research group) posted a review on eggs claiming that the egg industry has been downplaying the health risks of eggs through misleading advertisements. As soon as you eat one egg, you expose your body to several hours worth of oxidative stress, inflammation of ones arteries, endothelieum impairment (what keeps you blood running smoothly) and increases the susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to oxidize (beginning stages of heart disease). The authors go into great detail regarding dietary cholesterol and it is a very fascinating read indeed. The author’s final words “In our opinion, stopping egg consumption after a myocardial infarction or stroke would be like quitting smoking after lung cancer is diagnosed: a necessary act, but late.”

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2989358/

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9001684

      The egg industry has claimed that cholesterol from eggs is not important and does not raise cholesterol levels. The fundamental flaw in the study the egg industry has used to make this claim is that they measured fasting lipid levels at night and not levels through out the day after egg consumption. “Diet is not all about fasting lipids; it is mainly about the three-quarters of the day that we are in the nonfasting state. Fasting lipids can be thought of as a baseline; they show what the endothelium was exposed to for the last few hours of the night.”

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2989358/?tool=pubmed

  8. Update: I contacted the author of the study and he used only one source, from Vietnam. After what we did to that country with chemicals and other war munitions, I would never eat anything that came from there. To lump together and accuse all farmed fish, especially that from Europe where the environmental controls are strict, is wrong!!!

    “USA and fish from Vietnam sold at Asian market in Dallas, Texas. Not certain if farmed or not for Vietnamese fish sold in USA.
    Arnold Schecter, MD, MPH, Professor
    Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Program
    University of Texas School of Public Health
    Dallas Regional Campus
    Dallas, TX
    Phone: 214.336.8519
    General Office Phone: 214.648.1080

  9. Hello Dr. Greger, I’ve watched some of your videos on how fish is not healthy for us do to the high levels of various toxins; especially in farm raised fish. My question is what about wild caught Perch and Walleye from remote lakes in Canada are they good or bad for us? We love to catch and eat fish from there on vacation… but are we doing ourselves more harm than good?

  10. It’s my understanding that many of the fish which are caught and presumed wild (like salmon), are not really wild, but hatchery-raised and released. There are so many of these hatchery raised fish, although inferior in quality to the wild fish, they are competing with the wild fish, and hastening their extinction. I think that one of the best things you can do for ocean wildlife, is not to purchase ocean products.

  11. all farm raised fish has dioxin contamination? what about small local producers, that do not have fish in lakes or oceans? Is all feed contaminated with dioxin? What about organically raised farm fish?

  12. Good morning Doc,

    I am from India. I consume fresh water (river, pond and lakes) water fish and not sea water. Do these fishes suffer from same issues like sea water?

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