Study shows benefits of eating fish greatly outweigh risks

2 min read

Many studies have shown the nutritional benefits of eating fish (finfish or shellfish). Fish is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. But concerns have been raised in recent years about chemicals found in fish from environmental pollution, including mercury, PCBs and dioxins. That has led to confusion among the public – do the risks of eating fish outweigh the benefits?

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) tackled that question by undertaking the single most comprehensive analysis to date of fish and health. In the first review to combine the evidence for major health effects of omega-3 fatty acids, major health risks of mercury, and major health risks of PCBs and dioxins in both adults and infants/ young children, the results show that the benefits of eating a modest amount of fish per week – about 3 ounces of farmed salmon or 6 ounces of mackerel – reduced the risk of death from coronary heart disease (CHD) by 36 percent.

Notably, by combining results of randomized clinical trials, the investigators also demonstrated that intake of fish or fish oil reduces total mortality – deaths from any causes – by 17 percent.

Included with the paper, which appears in the Oct. 18, 2006, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (http://, is the first comprehensive summary of levels of omega-3 fatty acids, mercury, PCBs and dioxins in various species of fish and other foods, including chicken, beef, pork, butter and eggs.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.