Why fish is not health food

Nowadays you should expect any fish or seafood you eat to contain some mercury. This includes both wild and farmed fish. Eating fish & seafood is the main source of exposure to methylmercury – a highly toxic form of mercury, a poison that interferes with the brain, the cardiovascular & nervous systems, and can cause serious health problems.

Fish contains toxic metals such as mercury and cadmium, cholestrol, fats and toxins.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) have also designated mercury as a possible human carcinogen, which is a toxin that bioaccumulates both in fish /seafood and in humans.

Apart from mercury, add the extra dangers of also ingesting chemicals, pesticides and other common pollutants such as PCBs, dioxin, chlordane, and DDT. These pollutants are toxic to fish, humans and any other animals that consume and bio-accumulate them. And there’s also the radiation issue.


According to the EPA, PCBs are known carcinogens in some species, and very likely for humans too. PCBs disrupt immune function, cause learning disabilities and disrupt neurological development. Dioxins are known carcinogens and also cause liver damage, skin rashes and reductions in immune function. They are especially dangerous during fetal development and early childhood.

Cholesterol and fat:

Fish is often touted as a “health food” and “heart-healthy” because of the omega-3 fats yet, like all animal products, fish is high in dietary cholesterol, which considerably increases the risk for artery blockage and heart disease. Also labeled as “low in fat”, this is often not the case as between 15-30% of the fat in fish is actually saturated fat, which stimulates the liver to produce more cholesterol. Often 60% of fish calories comes from fat. We see this when analyzing our customers’ food diaries very often.

What about fish oil supplements?

When it comes to fish oil supplements, these may do more harm than good. In spite of the Big Pharma’s persistent efforts to try to sell more pills and fish oil as a “miracle cure for everything”, these claims are unfounded, with research and studies showing that fish oil may increase diabetes and prostate cancer risk. 

Now, there’s also some good news, as you can get all the clean and heart-healthy Omega-3s you need directly from plants such as flax seeds, chia seeds, leafy greens, hemp, walnuts and soy beans. Regarding the EPA and DHA conversion, there’s a lot of contradictory information and studies out there, and even more misinformation, as usual. Some studies have shown meat-eaters with a very poor DHA conversion and vegan women with higher levels than other meat-eaters, and the opposite too. The truth and what really matters is that fish isn’t health food, and that we don’t need to eat any fish to get Omega 3s as we can effectively get it exclusively from plants, without any of the detrimental effects that eating fish brings.

By Evany Ibáñez-Banczer