Increasing Aquatic Food Production is a Win-Win Solution for People and the Planet | New
September 17, 2021 – Nutrition researchers have long touted the health benefits of fish like salmon, cod and herring. But the world’s waterways, from the depths of the oceans to riverbanks to tropical reefs, offer an incredibly diverse abundance of food sources on which people everywhere depend.
To better understand the nutritional benefits of the full spectrum of aquatic foods, Christopher Golden and colleagues at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health created individual nutrient profiles for more than 3,750 species, ranging from water spinach to clams. and cockles with red salmon. Nutritional information is contained in the new Aquatic Food Composition Database, which is freely accessible and available for download.
The to study, published on September 15, 2021 in Nature, determined that the top seven categories of nutrient-rich animal foods are all aquatic and include pelagic fish (sardines, herring and other species), bivalves, and salmonids (salmon , trout and related fish). Sustainably increasing the production and consumption of these foods through aquaculture (or ocean farming), improved supply chain and better fisheries management is essential to tackle staggering global levels of malnutrition and associated micronutrient deficiencies, Golden said.
Currently, billions of people suffer from one or more forms of malnutrition and half of the children in the world suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. Public health experts and policymakers have increasingly focused on the importance of sustainable and healthy diets to overcome these challenges, but many reviews focus on terrestrial food sources and tend to present the aquatic foods as a largely monolithic category of “seafood or fish”. According to the researchers, this simplified categorization results in aquatic foods being undervalued as a nutritional solution and often neglecting the myriad of micronutrients they offer.
“Aquatic foods appear to be a unique win-win,” said Golden, assistant professor of nutrition and planetary health. “They are very rich in nutrients and can also be produced with relatively low environmental impacts compared to terrestrial meats.”
To provide a more robust and nuanced understanding of the potential nutritional benefits of aquatic foods, Golden and his colleagues created the Aquatic Food Composition Database to characterize the levels of hundreds of nutrients, including minerals (calcium, iron and zinc, among others), vitamins, and fatty acids — across 3,753 aquatic food species.
In addition to documenting the nutrient profiles of aquatic foods, the researchers wanted to know how different levels of global production and consumption of aquatic foods would affect human nutrition at the population level. To learn more, they looked at two scenarios: a baseline scenario that featured moderate growth in aquatic food production and a high production scenario in which aquatic food supplies would increase by 15.5 metric tonnes, or about 8% per year. compared to current levels, by 2030.
The high production scenario resulted in a significantly higher intake of DHA + EPA (types of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids), calcium, iron and vitamin B12 and avoided 166 million nutrient deficiencies. In this scenario, aquatic foods accounted for 13.7% of the overall protein intake and 2.2% of all calories consumed.
The study and the aquatic food composition database have important implications for nutrition and fisheries management policies around the world, Golden said. For example, if calcium deficiency is a problem in Turkey, the country may consider increasing the consumption of herring, sardines, or other small pelagic fish, which are rich sources of minerals. If vitamin A deficiency is a problem in Brazil, it may make sense for the country to promote the production of oysters or the consumption of sardines, both rich in vitamin A.
“In an effort to formulate food systems that will feed the world while remaining within the ecological limits of our planetary boundaries, producing aquatic foods is a reasonable way forward,” Golden said.
The study was part of the Blue Food Assessment, a comprehensive review of the role of aquatic foods in building healthy, sustainable and equitable food systems. Other Harvard Chan School researchers who contributed to the study included Simone Passarelli, Daniel Viana, Alon Shepon, Eric Rimm, Goodarz Danaei, and Heather Kelahan. Camille DeSisto also contributed during her undergraduate studies at Harvard College.
Aquatic Foods (The Nutritional Source)
Blue foods (Nature)
– Chris Sweeney