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An Open Letter Regarding Recent Reports That Low-Fat Fish Like Tilapia Are Unhealthy (July 16, 2008)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D., July 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- William S. Harris, Ph.D., FAHA of Sanford Research/USD, sent the following letter, dated July 16:

Eating fish, especially oily fish, at least twice per week is recommended for heart disease prevention. Fish is low in total and saturated fats, high in protein and essential trace minerals, and contains long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). Oily fish rich in these healthy omega-3s include salmon, trout, albacore tuna, sardines, anchovies, mackerel and herring. Our omega-3 needs can also be met by eating less-oily (lower-fat) fish more often.

Tilapia and catfish are examples of lower-fat fish that have fewer omega-3s than the oily fish listed above, but still provide more of these heart-healthy nutrients than hamburger, steak, chicken, pork or turkey. Actually, a 3 ounce serving of these fish provides over 100 mg of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Considering that this is about the current daily intake of these fatty acids in the U.S., even these fish should be considered better choices than most other meat alternatives. Since they are also relatively low in total and saturated fats and high in protein, they clearly can be part of a healthy diet.

U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics indicate that farmed tilapia and catfish contain somewhat more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. Most health experts (including organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Dietetic Association) agree that omega-6 fatty acids are, like omega-3s, heart-healthy nutrients which should be a part of everyone's diet. Omega-6 fatty acids are found primarily in vegetable oils (corn, soybean, safflower, etc) but also in salad dressings, nuts, whole-wheat bread, and chicken.

Replacing tilapia or catfish with "bacon, hamburgers or doughnuts" is absolutely not recommended.


William S. Harris, Ph.D., FAHA

Sr. Scientist and Director

Metabolism and Nutrition Research Center

Sanford Research/USD

Sioux Falls, SD

(605) 328-1304


Thomas Barringer, MD, FAHA

Medical Director, Center for Cardiovascular Health

Carolinas Medical Center

Charlotte, NC

(704) 446-1823

Philip Calder, Ph.D.

Professor of Nutritional Immunology

University of Southampton, UK

Marguerite M. Engler, RN, Ph.D., FAHA


Dept. of Physiological Nursing

UC San Francisco, CA

Mary B. Engler, Ph.D., RN, MS, FAHA

Professor and Director

Cardiovascular and Genomics Graduate Program

Dept. of Physiological Nursing

UC San Francisco, CA

Bruce Holub, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus

Dept of Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences

University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Peter Howe, Ph.D.

Professor and Director

Nutritional Physiology Research Centre

University of South Australia, Adelaide

Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., RD, FAHA

Distinguished Professor of Nutrition

Penn State University

University Park, PA

(814) 863-2923

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, DSc

Assistant Professor

Harvard School of Public Health

Boston MA


Joyce A. Nettleton, DSc

Editor, PUFA and Fats of Life Newsletters

Denver, CO


Yongsoon Park, Ph.D.

Chair and Assistant professor

Department of Food and Nutrition

Hanyang University

Seoul, Korea

Eric Rimm ScD, FAHA

Associate Professor

Harvard Schools of Medicine and of Public Health

Boston MA


Larry Rudel, Ph.D., FAHA

Professor of Biochemistry

Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, NC

(336) 716-2821

Frank Sacks, MD, FAHA

Professor of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

Harvard School of Public Health

Boston, MA

(617) 432-1420

Andy Sinclair, Ph.D.

Chair in Human Nutrition

School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences

Deakin University

Burwood, Australia

Clemens von Schacky, MD


Ludwig Maximilians-Universitat Munchen

Munich, Germany

SOURCE Sanford Research/USD
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