Salmon health value noted

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2002

A recent national study done on the cardiovascular health of nurses may help line the pocketbooks of peninsula fishers.

According to the study, conducted over the course of 20 years by researchers at Harvard University, and published in the April 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, eating Omega-3 fatty acids can significantly reduce a woman's risk of dying from heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in seafood products and are especially abundant in fatty fish, such as salmon.

The study is significant because it is the first time a long-term study has been done to asses the health benefits of Omega-3 acids in women. Previous studies have linked reduced heart disease and Omega-3s in men. The data serves to further suggest that eating salmon and other seafood can be beneficial to people's overall cardiovascular health.

According to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Council, salmon has some of the highest concentrations of Omega-3s of any food. However, determining exactly how much may be in an individual serving of salmon isn't an exact science.

"There is more than one answer. The Omega-3 fatty acid content of a fish is partly a function of its diet, partly a function its species and partly a function of where it's at in its life cycle. It's difficult to make a blanket statement of any kind (about Omega-3 content in salmon)," said ASMI director of public relations Laura Fleming.

Fleming said her group, rather than pushing the health benefits of Alaska salmon over farmed salmon, stresses the benefits of all salmon, then shows how Alaska fish are superior.

"One of the things ASMI has tried to do is stick to the facts in an effort to maintain our credibility. The edge we have is that Alaska salmon is wild and natural. That is becoming an increasingly special thing. People do want to know what their eating. Consumers will ultimately ask for Alaska salmon," she said.

However, that doesn't mean ASMI isn't taking seriously the mounting evidence suggesting the health benefits of eating fatty fish, like salmon. And she also said ASMI is working to draw attention to the health claims.

"We have been working at ASMI to try and change the stance of the FDA on total fat content and Omega-3s," she said, noting that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to recommend salmon as being heart-friendly because of the fish's high fat content, despite mounting evidence suggesting Omega-3's actually reduce the risk of heart disease.

However, she said people's attitudes toward fatty fish are changing, albeit slowly.

"The American Heart Association has recently come out with probably the first directive for people to include fatty fish into their diet," she said.

The more people become aware that eating salmon is good for the heart, Fleming said, the larger the market for Alaska salmon will be. That should certainly warm the hearts of Cook Inlet salmon fishers.

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