Canned fish, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and mercury contamination

We’ve heard a lot about the health benefits of deep-water fish, attributable especially to their omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. But what are the differences in fatty acid content among the various common types of canned fish, such as albacore or chunk light tuna, salmon, and mackerel? (After all, because of cost, most people in the US eat canned fish much more frequently than fresh fish, so this is a rather important question for the health-conscious.)

The Center for Botanical Lipids at Wake Forest University reports on a recent analysis of the fatty acid content of popular kinds of canned fish, and also reviews findings about mercury contamination, a cause for concern with some kinds of fish.

(Yes, we’re aware that these are not really botanical lipids–but we’re glad that someone has undertaken such a useful study and wants to get the findings out to the public!)

Highlights of the study:

–from a fatty acid prospective, canned salmon is more beneficial than any tuna product
–none of the canned fish in the study exceeded the Food and Drug Administration’s Action level of 1,000 parts per billion; but higher mercury levels were felt by the researchers to be of concern in some tuna, depending on type (albacore or chunk light) and whether canned in vegetable oil, soy oil, or water.

To read the full report, see

What About Canned Fish?

on the website of the Botanical Lipids Center.

And, our own closing note: for people seeking a health benefit, using distilled fish oil supplements can provide a defined quantity of fatty acids, and also eliminate concerns about mercury contamination. That’s not to say we’d ever give up the pleasure of eating salmon, whether fresh or canned!

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