Wisdom Magazine's Monthly Webzine Skip Navigation Links
Wisdom Magazine is also one of the country's largest free holistic publications with 150,000 copies printed bi-monthly in three regional print editions. Wisdom is dedicated to opening people's hearts and minds to the philosophies, products and services of the new millennium.
Home  About  This Month's Articles  Calendar of Events  Classified Listings  Holistic Resource Directory
 Educational Programs  Sacred Journeys & Retreats  Reiki Healing
 Article Archives  What's New in Books, CD's & DVD's  Wisdom Marketplace
 Where to Find Wisdom Near You  Subscriptions  Web Partner Links
 Advertising Information  Contact Us
Denali Institute of Northern Traditions
Miriam Smith
Margaret Ann Lembo
Edgar Cayce Past Life Regression
Laura Norman Reflexology
Vibes Up
Light Healing
Sacred Journeys Retreats
Alternatives For Healing

The Seafood Dilemma

by Sarah Cimperman, ND

Seafood has long been considered an essential element in a healthy diet. Population studies have shown that people who eat fish regularly live longer and have lower incidences of chronic disease than those who do not eat fish regularly. Research studies confirm the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids docosa-hexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which are only found in fish and seafood. However, reports of contamination with toxic compounds and environmental damage from fishing practices leave some skeptical. Can the benefits of eating fish and seafood outweigh the risks?

Health Effects

The essential omega-3 fats in fish and seafood have been found to protect against cancer and heart disease. They can reduce inflammation in the body, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the likelihood of blood clot formation. Fish fats play important roles in the prevention of heart attack, stroke, cancer and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. They may also improve chronic conditions such as insulin resistance, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, diabetes, PMS, memory loss and depression.

DHA and EPA are essential to our diet because our bodies cannot make them. Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) is a precursor found in flax seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, purslane and soy. It can be converted into DHA and EPA inside the body, but the conversion process is not efficient. Some experts estimate that less than one percent of ALA is converted into these healthy omega-3 fats. Furthermore, conversion becomes less efficient as we age. This puts elderly individuals, especially those who do not consume fish and seafood regularly, at higher risk of DHA and EPA deficiency at a time when support for neurological and cardiovascular systems is more important than ever.

Despite the numerous benefits of eating fish and seafood, health concerns exist as well. Studies have shown that some species are contaminated with mercury, lead, cadmium, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, insecticides and/or pesticides. A 2004 study in Science compared wild salmon to farm-raised salmon from across Europe and North and South America. Researchers found that the farm-raised fish had much higher concentrations of cancer-causing contaminants, including PCBs, dioxins, and insecticides dieldrin and toxaphene. Given the increased risk for cancer, many experts advise limiting consumption of farm-raised salmon to one meal per month or less.

Cancer isn’t the only risk associated with eating toxic fish. Toxins in fish have also been associated with problems in neurological, reproductive, endocrine and immune systems. Mercury can be especially dangerous for pregnant women because it is damaging to fetuses, impairing brain and nervous system development. Problems with memory, cognitive thinking, learning, language, visual and fine motor skills have been associated with exposure to mercury in utero. Symptoms in adults include problems with peripheral vision, sensation, muscle coordination, speech and hearing.

Environmental Damage

As global demand for fish and seafood continues to grow, wild fisheries are becoming depleted and fishing practices contribute to environmental problems. Bottom trawling and dragging dredge nets damage delicate sea and ocean floors. Once compromised, it can take centuries for the coral, animals and plants to return. Also, animals like seals, sea turtles, dolphins and whales are caught unintentionally and discarded, dead or dying. The Monterey Bay Aquarium estimates that for every pound of shrimp caught in a trawl net, between two and ten pounds of other animals are harvested unnecessarily as bycatch. Alternative fishing practices such as hook-and-line fishing, trap fishing and longlining are much less damaging to the environment and other animals.

Fish farming has helped supply the increasing demand for seafood and taken pressure off wild fisheries, but aquaculture also poses problems for the environment. Like other confined animal feeding operations, fish farms generate excessive amounts of waste and treat animals with chemical agents to increase growth and control infections. Surrounding waters become polluted with fish feces, food waste, antibiotics, insecticides and pesticides. This promotes the growth of oxygen-depleting microorganisms, upsets ecosystems and threatens wild populations.

Two exceptions exist. Bivalve farms can be used to clean costal bays and estuaries by filtering farm runoff and preventing algae overgrowth. Rainbow trout aquaculture has a low impact on the environment, and nutritionally, this fish is a good source of omega-3 fats.

Good Choices

When chosen carefully, fish and seafood can be part of a healthy diet and a sustainable future. Two general rules apply when it comes to selecting healthy and sustainable seafood. First, find species high in DHA and EPA. These usually include oily fish that live in cold water, such as salmon, halibut, herring, sardines and anchovies. Second, eat low on the food chain. Avoid large fish that eat other fish – like tuna, swordfish, marlin and shark – because these predators accumulate higher concentrations of toxic compounds than smaller fish.

The list of the most healthful and most sustainable fish and seafood currently includes anchovies, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, wild-caught pacific halibut, wild-caught Atlantic herring and sardines, wild-caught black sea bass, farm-raised rainbow trout, wild-caught pink shrimp (also known as northern shrimp), wild caught spot prawn, diver-caught sea scallops, and farm-raised or wild-caught clams such as steamers, littlenecks, longnecks and cockles.

Good and bad choices can vary by geographical area. To search for the best choices in your region, visit the website of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program at www.montereybay aquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.asp. Seafood Watch is a good source of the most current information and advisories on toxic contaminants and environmental issues, including how fish are harvested. Visit their website to browse the seafood guides and download printable pocket versions.


If good seafood is hard to find, or if certain health conditions call for more concentrated consumption, fish oil supplements offer an alternative. Because many toxic compounds are fat-soluble, the purity of fish oil is very important. Companies that produce fish oil supplements should test their products for contaminants and make this information available to consumers. Many good brands exist, but Nordic Naturals stands out because they are committed to using only sustainable sources of fish. Before you take fish oil or any other new supplement, talk to your doctor about whether it is a good choice for you. If so, she or he can advise you on the best dosage.

Dr. Sarah Cimperman is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine in private practice in New York City. For more information, call 646-234-2918 or visit www.drsarahcimperman.com.

Add Comment

Article Archives  This Month's Articles  Click Here for more articles by Sarah Cimperman, ND
Business Opportunity
Light Healing
Miriam Smith
Kiros Book
Alternatives For Healing
Edgar Cayce Animal Communication
Laura Norman Reflexology
Denali Institute
Margaret Ann Lembo

Call Us Toll Free: 888-577-8091 or  |  Email Us  | About Us  | Privacy Policy  | Site Map  | © 2016 Wisdom Magazine