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Scientists Call for Higher Seafood Consumption to Improve Health

Published: June 14, 2010
Australian Governments have been urged to encourage greater consumption of seafood to avoid a looming "epidemic" of mental ill health and other brain disorders.

This follows a warning from the world’s foremost authorities in neuroscience and nutrition, meeting in London recently, that western nations will suffer "unthinkable health, social and fiscal consequences” unless they increase consumption of DHA, an Omega-3 oil found most abundantly in seafood.

Mr Ted Loveday, Managing Director of Seafood Services Australia (SSA), said Australian Governments should heed the message from the London meeting and encourage greater consumption of seafood.

"One of SSA’s tasks is to help make Australians aware of the vital contribution fish and other seafood makes to good health," Mr Loveday said. "Scientists at the London conference want a return to what they term ‘traditional fish and seafood consumption’ to improve human health.

"They issued a statement calling for ‘a new focus to be placed on policies for health, food, agriculture, pollution of aquatic and marine resources and their rational use, with a restoration of traditional fish and seafood consumption.

"These experts said that brain disorders and mental ill health will be the top two burdens of ill health worldwide by 2020, and are the greatest threat to humankind today."

Professor Michael Crawford, Director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry & Human Nutrition at London Metropolitan University, said at the meeting: "We need to see action at the most fundamental level to circumvent the mental health epidemic facing our society. The issue must be addressed in school-level education; maternal and infant nutrition; food, agricultural and fisheries policies; and in moving to adequately address river, estuarine and coastal pollution.

"We estimate that the bulk of the mental health issues could potentially be addressed and the impending rise in disorders reversed through adequate nutrition and we urge all parties to come together in tackling this most serious of problems. The financial, social and political issues for the function of society and peace demand the highest priority be given to this issue."

Prof. Crawford added that the Institute of Brain Chemistry & Human Nutrition had identified the poor state of maternal nutrition in pregnancy associated with low birth weight, which in previous work they identified as starting with school children. They have also identified that an Omega-3 deficiency is now a global problem and is co-existing with iodine deficiency, to which some 1.6 billion people are at risk. Both deficiencies stunt brain development.

Mr Loveday said comparatively low levels of seafood consumption had ramifications for public health in Australia.

"Humans evolved with high levels of consumption of fish and other seafood, and today we still require many of the nutrients they contain," he said. "The Omega-3 oils, or ‘fish oils’, are the best known but seafood contains a package of very important nutrients, such as iodine, selenium, zinc, copper and iron, all important for good health, especially brain health.

"The recent scientific conference in the Royal Institute of Medicine, at which SSA was represented, highlighted that most people are eating insufficient quantities of seafood and their health is suffering as a result.

"Everyone should be eating fish or other seafood at least two to three times a week and it would be better to eat seafood even more often. That’s not hard, considering there are 21 meals eaten by the average Australian every week."

source: Seafood Services Australia