The potential impact of compositional changes in farmed fish on its health-giving properties: is it time to reconsider current dietary recommendations?

Baukje de Roos, Alan A Sneddon, Matthew Sprague, Graham Horgan, Ingeborg A Brouwer

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Assessment of national dietary guidelines in a number of European countries reveals that some are based on cohort studies, focusing on total seafood consumption, while others are based on the content of EPA and DHA, distinguishing between oily and other fish. The mean actual intake of fish in most countries is around or below the recommended intake, with differences in intake of fish being present between sex and age groups. Many people do not reach the national recommendation for total fish intake. Dietary recommendations for fish and EPA/DHA are based mainly on data collected more than 10 years ago. However, methods of farmed fish production have changed considerably since then. The actual content of EPA and DHA in farmed salmon has nearly halved as the traditional finite marine ingredients fish meal and fish oil in salmon diets have been replaced with sustainable alternatives of terrestrial origin. As farmed salmon is an important source of EPA and DHA in many Western countries, our intake of these fatty acids is likely to have decreased. In addition, levels of vitamin D and Se are also found to have declined in farmed fish in the past decade. Significant changes in the EPA and DHA, vitamin D and Se content of farmed fish means that average intakes of these nutrients in Western populations are probably lower than before. This may have consequences for the health-giving properties of fish as well as future dietary recommendations for fish intake.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2042-2049
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number11
Early online date24 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Financial support: The research of B.d.R., A.A.S. and G.H. is supported by the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS). M.S. is funded by the University of Stirling. The funders had no role in the design, analysis or writing of this article. Conflict of interest: None to report. Authorship: The research question was formulated by B.d.R. and I.A.B. B.d.R. and I.A.B. performed a critical assessment of national dietary guidelines in a selection of European countries and the USA. G.W.H. performed analysis of data from the NDNS database. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript. Ethics of human subject participation: Not applicable.


  • Fish Intake
  • dietary recommendations
  • Aquaculture
  • fish fatty acids


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