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Eating farm raised salmon of questionable mercury content outweigh the risk of not eating salmon at all?

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It is recommended to eat about 4 oz. salmon 3 times a week. Due to personal reasons, buying wild salmon & cooking it myself is not an option. Most restaurants use farmed salmon instead of wild salmon, whose mercury & PCB levels are generally unknown but I assume acceptable since they are sold in the market. Does the total benefit of eating farm raised salmon of questionable mercury & PCB content outweigh the risk of not eating salmon at all?

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  1. I believe that the issues with farmed salmon vs. wild is not the mercury content but the potential of elevated PCB's.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Amuse Bouches

      I believe the current issue is that parasites (sea lice) in salmon farms might make
      the wild salmon population extinct.

      Here are the New York Times (12/13) and Toronto Star (12/19) stories:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/14/sci...
      http://www.thestar.com/living/article...

    2. broadened my question to include PCBs

      1. The health benefit is the omega 3's. There are other dietary sources if you are worried about PCB's and mercury. Although mercury and lead levels are much higher in bigger fish like swordfish and tuna.

        You can find foods fortified with Omega 3 fatty acids such as breads, juices, meal bars, margarine’s and oils. Supplements are also widely available, the most popular being Linseed/Flaxseed oil (which is one of the most concentrated plant sources of Omega 3).

        Other good plant based sources of Omega 3 fatty acids are:

        Leafy Green Vegetables

        For a double hit make a spinach and walnut salad. Add any other ingredients of your choice.

        Nuts

        Walnuts, Brazil Nuts, Hazelnuts, Pecans. Brilliant as a snack instead of chocolate or sweets. Toast slightly under grill for a great taste.

        Seeds

        Especially sesame seeds. Choose a seeded roll when you go shopping. Sesame seeds also complement any slightly sweet or spicy chilli dressing.

        Tahini

        Tahini is a sesame seed paste that is used itself as a dip, and also as a base for some Middle Eastern sauces such as curries, as a 'roux' would be in European cooking.

        Hummous

        A great tasting chickpea/garbanzo bean dip (one of my favourites) – made with a tahini base!

        Oils

        Soya Bean Oil, Sunflower Oil, Canola Oil, Rapeseed Oil, Linseed/Flaxseed Oil. Most of these can be found in your local supermarket. Experiment when cooking, marinating and dressing.

        Eggs

        Egg yolks, both chicken and duck, are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids.

        2 Replies
        1. re: lisaf

          Good list, lisaf.

          Grass-fed beef (NOT grain-fed beef) is another good source of Omega-3s. Actually, grass-fed animals of any variety (including bison, lamb, elk, etc) are a good source of Omega-3s.

          1. re: oolah

            And why is that? Because (as I'm sure many of you know) you are what you eat. Grains are high in Omega 6, but we have plenty of those. Grasses are high in Omega 3.

        2. I don't like farmed because it has no flavour, luckily I live in BC so I can eat salmon all the time and I only get wild. But I'm just lucky like that :)
          Plus they shoot the farmed full of dyes nad stuff - ick

          1 Reply
          1. re: starlady

            Here here! I gave up on eating Salmon when I moved to Florida because the wild stuff is so hard to find. When I can get it, I stock up! It keeps very well in Foodsaver bags.

            Otherwise, I just eat something else.

          2. I can't help but be curious about what would prevent you from purchasing and cooking wild salmon.

            In any case, I would guess that if you look around you will find some restaurants that would serve wild salmon.

            And, as LisaF pointed out, there are a lot of other sources for the various benefits of salmon. And I would guess that if you are eating salmon for health benefits, wild salmon with likely be richer in the many good things in salmon.

            In any case, the main reason to steer clear of farmed salmon is taste. Once you eat wild, the farmed stuff just isn't much good.

            2 Replies
            1. re: andytee

              alaskan wild salmon is sold in tins in every market in america. no cooking required. there are so many other questions about farmed fish besides pcbs, i avoid it at all costs.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Plus most costcos and sam's club also sell frozen salmon both of the wild and farmed variety. I would skip the farmed for all of the reasons previously stated. Can't stand the stuff myself, but love, love, love the wild.

            2. I think Mercury is more of a concern with wild salmons. You may want to try Scottish farm raised, perhaps without the antibiotics and hormones.

              1. Who recommends salmon that often (other than Perricone and some people who might have a vested interest)? It's recommended that you have fish more often but it does not have to be salmon, just a fatty fish. If you like the way farm raised salmon tastes, then it's okay for have on occasion. It has more PCBs, color additives, is not environmentally friendly but it is higher in Omega 3's than wild salmon. If you don't like how it tastes, then there are other sources as pointed above. You can get alpha linolenic acid (ALA) from non-meat sources which your body will convert to omega 3 fatty acids, from things like flax seed, walnuts, soybean, canola oil. You can also buy eggs now that have omega 3 fatty acids. Despite all the risks they say about fish, they've found that babies from women who ate more fish during pregnancy have higher intelligence than those whose mothers did not, despite the increased mercury, chemicals and are now removing the seafood restriction for pregnant women. Overall, I think it you enjoy it, have it in moderation; if not, you can get those nutrients from other sources as with other foods.

                1. Mercury can be a problem for humans eating predator fish higher up the food chain in areas where naturally occuring Hg leaches into the water. Hg in farmed salmon would not be a problem.

                  1. i personally wouldn't eat farmed salmon in any quantity-- see others' alternative foods. but it depends on individual circumstances. pregnant and nursing moms really have to watch out with their fish consumption, for ex.

                    1. Mercury is not an issue with wild salmon since these fish do not live in the deep ocean. Contrary to one of the posts, research has found that farmed salmon has almost NO omega 3 fatty acids. So with all the carcinogens in it, eating farmed salmon has more health detriments and only one benefit--protein. And some of the farmed salmon is much, much worse--especially the farmed fish from parts of Europe. Markets have to state the country of origin of fish now. It's only a matter of time before more controls are put on it. If wild salmon's not on sale, I buy canned and make salmon salad!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jonadenz

                        What research has found that farm raised salmon has NO omega 3's? I've seen it on sites like Mercola but not on any peer reviewed studies. I have seen these university publications that say farmed salmon is higher in omega 3's.

                        http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/D...

                        http://news.uns.purdue.edu/html4ever/...

                        http://njaes.rutgers.edu/seafoodsafet...

                        Personally, I choose not to eat farm raised salmon but I think it's important to know the source of the information to decide help with my decision.

                        1. re: chowser

                          I've just reviewed some of the 2007 medical studies at the NIH and farmed salmon does indeed have more Omega-3s than wild (surprised me), however it also has more PCBs and, now, lice (see above) Mercury levels are below the Canadian and US alarm levels, FWIW. Did some other reading that said the reason for the higher Omega-3s in farmed is because farmed has 50% more fat in general.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            Thanks--that's what I've read, too. I don't eat farmed salmon for the other reasons, as I've said, but I think it's important to make an informed decision and not one on rumors. I haven't heard about the lice, though. There is also the added food colorant to make it look, well, salmon colored.

                      2. I don't know the cite, but according to a bit I heard on NPR there is a big difference in the levels of contaminants in farm raised salmon depending on the source. Generally Europeon is the worst, American not bad, and the best is -- it was a surprise to me -- Chilean! The wild salmon was much harder to generalize, it being wild and all... Anyone having citations to support or correct this information -- I would love to have them.

                        As for flavor, I personally prefer wild for cooked and farmed for sashimi/sushi -- farmed Scottish salmon being my favorite for the latter.

                        Here is an interesting link; interesting also because it also addresses Copper River and Puget Sound salmon:

                        http://www.bluefish.org/pcbstudy.htm

                        1. "Does the total benefit of eating farm raised salmon of questionable mercury & PCB content outweigh the risk of not eating salmon at all?"

                          Current studies are starting to support the idea that the benefits outweigh the risks BUT please remember that these studies are constantly being refuted and FDA opinions do change. (I believe the ban on fish during pregnancy was based on a blubber study which couldn't be duplicated nor do any fish come anywhere close to containing as much contaminated crap as whales do)
                          In general, most risk analysis does take the most conservative route, as it should when human health and welfare is at stake. If you are a young, healthy person, you should be fine.

                          Personally, I believe that the very young, very old, or people with health issues should be more cautious -- there are other ways to get your omega-3s. And remember, PCBs really are bad (very bad) and they just don't go away. (goodbye pretty eagles in S.Cal. we're sorry we contaminated your nesting areas beyond belief and that transplanted birds can't get an egg to hatch even after all these years.)

                          Try to be smart about what you eat and pollute your body as little as possible -- trust me, our personal environments already contribute enough.

                          signed,
                          tired of working in the Environmental Field even if it is just database work.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: sebetti

                            I'm a pretty firm believer in everything in moderation. Last year when I was pregnant i stopped eating canned tuna and all salmon due to the risk of mercury that I read about. Near the end of my pregnancy (obviously within 9 months), I began reading NEW studies that said it was actually more of a risk to the babies brain development to NOT eat such seafood and 1-2x's a week was now recommended. Luckily I never took too much stock in all the things I was supposed to avoid anyway. New studies come up all the time and I don't think anyone has any real answers. I recentlyl read a study that says fluoridated water can cause cancer. Then I read 3 more studies refuting that study. I drink about 2 gallons of water a day and refuse to believe that water will be bad for me.
                            You just need to use common sense and not believe everything you read as gospel. To every point there seems to be a counter-point.

                          2. If you're so worried, be comforted: There is no risk to not eating salmon.

                            1. I notice this question was asked before and left unanswered:

                              "It is recommended to eat about 4 oz. salmon 3 times a week"

                              By who?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: FrankJBN

                                By grizzly bears.