Australian Seafood Brimming with Omega-3

Ecos, October 1998 | Go to article overview

Australian Seafood Brimming with Omega-3


Before tucking in to your next dish of yabbies, oysters, orange roughy or salmon, you might like to ponder their relative health benefits. A study by CSIRO Marine Research has shown Australian seafood contains higher levels of omega-3 oils than other protein sources. And in terms of oil content and composition, not all seafoods are equal.

The study, funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), looked at the amount of oil and individual oil components such as omega-3 fatty acids in 200 seafood species. It found most Australian seafood contains 10-100 times higher levels of certain omega-3 fatty acids, and lower cholesterol levels, than other protein sources such as beef, chicken and lamb.

In seafood, oils are the second largest component after protein. The most important oils are triglycerides, which serve as an energy store, and polar oils and cholesterol which are structural components of cell membranes. Cholesterol is a factor in heart disease and other disorders when in dietary excess.

The main components of the oils are saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Of particular nutritional importance are the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids are essential in the diet, as our bodies can only make them in small amounts.

Omega-3 oils are active heart disease, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis. They also aid the function and development of the infant brain, and retina and in studies by CSIRO Human Nutrition have been shown to protect against heart rhythm disorders.

Another beneficial oil found in seafood is arachidonic acid (AA), an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid which is a precursor of prostaglandins (modulators of hormone activity) and other eicosanoids (physiologically active compounds).

The Marine Research study found levels of oil components in seafood to vary with species and location. Fishes from warmer waters and with specific diets generally have higher AA levels than those in temperate waters, most Australian fishes have higher relative levels of DHA than fishes in northern hemisphere waters, and prawns have lower levels of omega-3 and higher levels of cholesterol compared with fishes. …

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