A scientist at the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) has called on the industry to back an increase in research into the benefits of eating seafood as a product, not just more work into omega-3 fatty acids. Livar Froyland, principal scientists with NIFES, said that although some of the individual components of seafood have been explored, such as the much-discussed omega-3 fatty acids, there is a real lack of studies into the effects of eating seafood as a whole.
Seafood was not fulfilling its potential as a healthy product, since it was not championing all of its benefits, besides omega-3, he said. This was because governments demand rigorous evidence into the health benefits of a product before it is allowed to be sold as such, and at present such claims cannot be made due to a lack of studies. Speaking at the Norwegian Seafood Export Council (NSEC)’s conference in Brussels in April, he said that without convincing research governments will not open the doors. There has been a lot of research into omega-3, he said, but not about the whole product.
While the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 are well-established positives of seafood components, the less-established potential benefits such as mental health treatment were as yet largely unexplored, said Froyland, adding that it is known that a lack of iodine is a major contributor to mental retardation and declining mental health. Also, selenium is vital for a healthy antioxidant system in the body, while there are early suggestions protein in fish can help protect against Type 2 diabetes. Yet, these additional claims are as yet largely unsupported in the mainstream literature.
Figures from NIFES reveal in 1999, 60 percent of all global deaths were estimated to have been caused by “lifestyle diseases” such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mental health issues. By 2020, this figure is expected to increase to 73 percent. Given the recognised benefits of products contained within seafood, Froyland asked if this meant the individual components are healthier than the seafood itself. No, he answered, capsules do not replace fish. Seafood was in a great position to help people at risk of such lifestyle diseases, Froyland said, but we cannot extrapolate benefits from research into individual components and claim that the food does the same. We are not realising the full potential of the food, he said.
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