Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fish-Healthy? Environmental? Ethical?

The subject of whether to eat fish or not is vast!  Fish seems to have it's own separate niche in the field of nutrition, apart from red meat and chicken and other land animals.  It has great press and spin promoting all its wonderful healthy aspects. However...I don't agree.  And neither do all the plant based doctors and nutritionists.  There is much written about the negative effects of eating fish. This being due to the inherent make-up of fish (and shellfish). Then there is the toxic and contaminant part of the fish problem.  Then there is the incredible environmental toll that fishing and overfishing is causing to the oceans.  And finally, and always so important to me, is the ethical side of the  issue.

I will list a few really good articles and give their site links at the end of this blog, but I'll basically do a brief summary first of what is in them.

We'll start with the health and nutrition aspect of fish, as that is what most people are interested in.  A question was raised as to whether protein from fish is superior to meat.  In some ways, it might be, but in many other ways it's not. Which poison would you rather die from?  Fish or red meat or chicken or dairy?

To begin with, fish is mainly protein and fat with no fiber (zero). Some fish are extremely high in fat...some times as much as 60% of calories.  Along with this, fish are also high in cholesterol., and when we look at the values of cholesterol by calories (as opposed to weight) we find that fish is often twice the cholesterol of red meat and chicken and even pork. (per 100 calories, not per ounce)   A three ounce serving of bass has 80 milligrams of cholesterol, exactly the same as red meat.  (average being about 26 mg's per ounce)  Ideally , we should eat NO cholesterol.  Cholesterol is only found in animals and seafood. Plants have ZERO cholesterol. I've discussed earlier that we get far too much protein in our diets and should be much more concerned about getting less, especially animal protein (and fish protein). Fish, being high in protein (since it's made up of only protein and fat) is again contributing to an overly high protein diet, and using animal (fish) flesh again to be doing it.    There have been studies showing fish increases risk of prostate cancer, increases risk of heart disease, and even promotes breast cancer.  (see the articles by Dr. John McDougall "Fish Promotes Breast Cancer" and the article by Dr. Michael Greger : "Fish Consumption and Breast Cancer-A Warning"  

Everyone these days has heard of the toxic aspects of what's in fish now. Mercury contamination is probably the worst of what you'll be getting when you eat fish. Mercury is highly toxic to humans (kidneys, nervous system and even heart issues) Eating fish and shellfish is the largest cause of mercury levels in humans. Fish also tend to accumulate many other highly toxic waste products that humans dump in the oceans (PCBs and Dioxins and others)

Fish oil is very popular and even most GP doctors recommend it to patients to make sure they get all those good Omega 3' help prevent everything from heart disease to depression.  While there are definite benefits from Omega 3's, fish isn't the only source. A wide variety of plants can be used to get our Omega 3 needs, like flax seeds and flax oil, hemp , walnuts, other seeds and nuts, soy, beans , vegetables and grains. There is also the important aspect of the ratio of Omega 3's to 6's and 9's.  Omega 6's being the "bad oils". We are supposed to have a ratio of 4:1 (6's to 3's) but most on the SAD diet get 10 or 20:1 or higher.  We should focus on getting rid of the bad oils and put less focus on raising our Omega 3 levels, as we can get most of what we need with a whole foods plant based diet.

The environmental damage is staggering.  Most of the world fisheries are being depleted at alarming rates, and many are approaching the irreversible point of collapse.  Fishermen are bringing in smaller and smaller catches and many are looking for new lines of work.  A report came out in 2006 by by an international group of ecologists and economists stating that the oceans would run out of fish  by 2048  if current fishing practices continue.  If there are no fish, and if the oceans "die" then that will pretty much put an end to life as we know it (or knew it...)  If everyone on the planet decided to eat more fish instead of meat, the demand for fish would be so great that we'd reach that emptiness far sooner than 2048. (Here is a link to the article: We always have to think of the consequences of what we're eating, and eating fish is destroying the planet as much as any other human endeavor.

And finally, for this post, there is the ethical  question.  I've been trying to keep this entire blog mainly about the health and nutrition aspects of a plant based diet.  Environmental issues will also be a large part of the writings.  But fish are still living creatures and we have to realize and be aware of that , as much as whether we are eating baby lambs or baby veal calves or tortured caged  chickens. Fish really get a bad deal with all this since they are not cute or furry or cuddly and live in an environment out of our sight. But they are living creatures. They feel pain. They do not want to be killed or hooked or netted or eaten by us, and given the chance, will swim away and avoid capture. Decisions about things like this are personal. Most people, for some reason, look at fish as something there to be eaten for humans. Others look at them as creatures that exist for their own reasons, not to be interfered with by humans. I prefer the latter.

I have many articles posted about Fish on my site:

and on my personal counseling site:

Some interesting sites regarding much of the info I've presented in this post:


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