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Fish, a Mediterranean source of n-3 PUFA: benefits do not justify limiting consumption

  • Angel Gil (a1) and Fernando Gil (a2)

Fish is an important source of energy, high-quality proteins, fat, vitamins and minerals. Within lipids, n-3 long-chain PUFA (n-3 LC PUFA), mainly EPA and DHA, play an important role in health promotion and disease prevention. In contrast to the potential health benefits of dietary fish intake, certain chemical pollutants, namely heavy metals and some organic compounds, contained in seafood have emerged as an issue of concern, particularly for frequent fish consumers and sensitive groups of populations. The present review summarises the health benefits and risks of fish consumption. n-3 LC-PUFA are key compounds of cell membranes and play an important role in human health from conception through every stage of human development, maturation and ageing. DHA has a major role in the development of brain and retina during fetal development and the first 2 years of life and positively influences neurodevelopment, mainly visual acuity and cognitive functions. n-3 LC-PUFA are also effective in preventing cardiovascular events (mainly stroke and acute myocardial infarction) especially in persons with high cardiovascular risk. By contrast, there is convincing evidence of adverse neurological/neurodevelopmental outcomes in infants and young children associated with methylmercury exposure during fetal development due to maternal fish consumption during pregnancy. Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls present in contaminated fish may also develop a risk for both infants and adults. However, for major health outcomes among adults, the vast majority of epidemiological studies have proven that the benefits of fish intake exceed the potential risks with the exception of a few selected species in sensitive populations.

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*Corresponding author: A. Gil, fax  +34 958 819132, email
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British Journal of Nutrition
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