WisconsinAquaculture.com - 022712-Major Finding for Farmed Salmon
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022712-Major Finding for Farmed Salmon


Posted: 27 Feb 2012 08:33 AM PST

In an important breakthrough, Norwegian scientists have shown that farmed Atlantic salmon can be a net producer of the vital marine omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) when marine fish oils are replaced by terrestrial vegetable fish oils in the fish diets. Omega-3’s are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are found in both plants and animals. The marine omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are long chain fatty acids whose preventive effects on cardiovascular disease are well documented. Plant-based omega-3 fatty acids are shorter chain fatty acids whose positive effects on health are less clear.

Farmed salmon have been widely criticized as being a net loss to wild fisheries as confined fish are fed traditionally on food fish from the sea, in the form of processed fish meals and oils. In a widely distributed and still cited paper in Science, Naylor et al. stated that “… in 1997, about 1.8 million tons of wild fish for feed were required to produce 644,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon – a 2.8 : 1 ratio.” It is well known that marine feed resources will be inadequate to satisfy the expected growth of the aquaculture industry to 2050. Aquaculture feed companies are working actively to find alternative protein and lipid sources from plants, bacteria, fungi and algae to sustain the growth of aquaculture worldwide to meet human needs.

Salmon has one of the highest concentrations of heart-healthy omega-3’s in any farmed or wild fish. The concern until now was that fish fed with terrestrial plant sources of meals and oils will contain lower levels of these heart-healthy omega-3’s.

This pioneering research shows something amazing. Namely, that farmed Atlantic salmon can be a producer of the most important marine fatty acids for human health when fed terrestrial vegetable oils. Scientist Monica Sanden of the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research in Bergen, Norway found that, “…in this study, we found that salmon produced their own marine omega-3 fatty acids based on omega-3 from plants. We found that the fish body contained more DHA than what was provided by the diet, meaning that the fish had a net production of DHA”. Scientists formulated a food in which 80% of the marine fish meal was replaced by terrestrial plant protein, and 70% of the marine fish oil by terrestrial vegetable oils. During three months, each fish contained 800 mg of DHA. European food safety authorities recommend a daily intake of 250 mg EPA and DHA for healthy persons. “A 150 g serving of salmon…would give…1,400 mg EPA and DHA, which is almost six times the recommended daily intake of these fatty acids,” says Sanden.

Reference:  Sanden, M. et al. 2011. Jor. Ag. Food Chem. 59(23): 12697–12706


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