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Researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have concluded that farm-raised tilapia--the kind typically sold in supermarkets- -contains very low levels of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and very high levels of the potentially dangerous omega-6 fatty acids.
How dangerous is it? Eating tilapia could be far worse for your heart health than eating a hamburger, doughnuts or even pork bacon!
The double whammy of low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and high levels of omega-6 fatty acids could be potentially dangerous for some people with heart disease, arthritis, asthma and other allergic and auto-immune diseases that are particularly vulnerable to an "exaggerated inflammatory response." Inflammation is known to cause damage to blood vessels, the heart, lung and joint tissues, skin and the digestive tract.
"In the United States, tilapia has shown the biggest gains in popularity among seafood, and this trend is expected to continue as consumption is projected to increase from 1.5 million tons in 2003 to 2.5 million tons by 2010," write the Wake Forest researchers in an article published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
The team discovered that farm-raised tilapia, as well as farmed catfish, "have several fatty acid characteristics that would generally be considered by the scientific community as detrimental. " Tilapia has higher levels of potentially detrimental long-chain omega-6 fatty acids than 80-percent-lean hamburger, doughnuts and even pork bacon. "For individuals who are eating fish as a method to control inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, it is clear from these numbers that tilapia is not a good choice," the researchers write. "All other nutritional content aside, the inflammatory potential of hamburger and pork bacon is lower than the average serving of farmed tilapia."
The heart healthy benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, found in abundance in salmon and trout, have been well documented-- so much so that the American Heart Association recommends everyone eat at least two servings of fish a week. Just don't make one of those servings of tilapia since it could actually do your body more harm than good.