Tilapia has Dangerous Levels of Fatty Acids

Health Concerns surround Farm-Raised TilapiaFarm-raised tilapia is bad for you? Please say it isn’t so.

New research from Wake Forest University School of Medicine reports that farm-raised tilapia has very low levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. According to an article at the Environmental News Network:

They say their research revealed that farm-raised tilapia, as well as farmed catfish, “have several fatty acid characteristics that would generally be considered by the scientific community as detrimental.” Tilapia has higher levels of potentially detrimental long-chain omega-6 fatty acids than 80-percent-lean hamburger, doughnuts and even pork bacon, the article says.

“For individuals who are eating fish as a method to control inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, it is clear from these numbers that tilapia is not a good choice,” the article says. “All other nutritional content aside, the inflammatory potential of hamburger and pork bacon is lower than the average serving of farmed tilapia.”

But, the article says, the recommendation by the medical community for people to eat more fish has resulted in consumption of increasing quantities of fish such as tilapia that may do more harm than good, because they contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, also called n-6 PUFAs, such as arachidonic acid.

Tilapia is one of the most highly consumed fish in America and a very important fish in aquaculture due to their omnivorous diet (they eat a vegetable or cereal based diet), mode of reproduction, high stocking density, and rapid growth. Salmon, another important fish in aquaculture, rely on a high-protein diet based on fish or meat, whereas Tilapias are raised on an omnivorous diet in tanks or channels and are thus considered better for the environment since their waste and disease is better controlled. [1]

Tilapia is a part of my diet and will probably remain that way regardless of this study. I keep a bag of Tilapia fillets in the freezer and eat it about once or twice a month. It is a mild and highly-versatile fish that works well in a lot of recipes.

I had assumed that since it was “fish” it MUST be good for you. This is good information to have and just goes to show that you can’t assume something is good for you. It will take some further research on my part before I cross Tilapia off my list completely though.


1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilapia_in_aquaculture

Image credit: michaelrupert

13 thoughts on “Tilapia has Dangerous Levels of Fatty Acids

  1. Yikes — I’m the same way, I always have some tilapia in my freezer. I didn’t realize it had high levels of the bad fatty acid — I also assumed all fish was healthy. I will probably still eat it on occasion, but will definitely try to eat less fatty fish instead from now on.

  2. I think the key phrase in the study is “Chilton said tilapia is easily farmed using inexpensive corn-based feeds, which contain short chain omega-6s.” Corn-fed fish is the problem.

    Research has already shown that grass-fed beef has a higher omega-3 content (with less omega-6) than corn-fed beef; so it stands to corn-fed fish will have the same high omege-6 content. And there are a lot of other foods high in omega-3s, like fish and walnuts for peopel looking to eat healtheir diets.

  3. I am from this part of Maguindanao, Mindanao Philippines and my province is a producer of good tilapia especially those from Lake Sebu and Buluan. This is my first time to know that tilapia has this bad effect on health, maybe if its eaten excessively. So the thing I guess is to eat it moderately or in moderate amounts, but if you eat it everyday then that wouldn’t really serve the effects of the omega fats found in fish and good for our health. In fact, the dried tilapia is very tasty, tastier than that crispy fried boneless fish served along with beef tapa in one of those popular fastfood chain in the Philippines. Please contact me if you’re interested with the dried tilapia, I assure you its yummy especially served during breakfast. Contact me thru +639218245814 and I’ll send you you a sample, you just have to pay for the freight fee.

  4. paul on

    The ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 in corn fed beef is up to 1:15 but in grass fed beef it is closer to a healthy 1:1 ratio. Corn is not a natural or healthy food for fish and cattle. Only through human intervention did they evolve to eat corn. Tilapia should be fed algae, duckweed, hyacinth, worms and lettuce. If fish and cattle are fed green waste water and last years corn surplus will the food be healthy and nutritious? No, the quality of the animal food is paramount. Corn fed cattle are more prone to e.coli, because of a more acidic irritated stomach, which necessitates anti-biotics. There are many reasons why feeding an animal or a plant a balanced and appropriate diet will be healthy for the consumer. Know what the animals that you consume, have eaten.

  5. Uncle B on

    How cum South Koreans will riot in the streets against U.S. beef? What do they know that we don’t know? Is corn feeding a factor?

  6. Hoo Kahamayong on

    Beef no good! Much better have farm-raise shrimp and chicken. No bird flu in cow though.

  7. Maddox Ford on

    You should also look at where your food is coming from. If its country of origin is a third-world shithole, the third-world shitholeness is most likely going to be absorbed into the food. Wild caught is the way to go.

  8. cribcat on

    The starch in corn was not meant for cattle or fish.

  9. Elan Vital on


    I most strongly disagree with your suggested diet for tilapia. Algae, duckweed, worms are all exceptionally bland. Tilapia should be fed a diet rich in arugula, bacon and cheese. Even better if you can get them to swim in extra-virgin olive oil.

    Yes, it is more work and considerably more expensive than dumping a bag of corn / sawdust / asorted industrial waste into a fish farm pond but it would produce a fish of superior flavour!

  10. jule on

    definitely disappointing news but i am still eating it for dinner tonight!

  11. Did you see the episode of “Dirty Jobs” featuring Talapia used in the sewage waste system to eat the poo ….EWEEEEE

  12. In fact, Tilapia has very low levels of …all…omega acids. If they tend to have high levels of Omega 6 it is 98% sure because of the corn they are fed in captivity because growers can save cost on production while lining their pockets at the expense of their client´s health.

    If you are going to blame the Tilapia and not eat any more than make sure to also stop eating store bought eggs! Why? Because thay are also fed corn and other grains and so their average Omega6/3 ratio is as high as 24/1 out of balance when it should be 1/1 in nature (IE. with range fed animals vs a grain-based diet)

    Here are two “Must see” URLs which for anyone with real interest in either the non-issue of Tilapia effects upon health or human health in general:



    It´s the grain stupid!

    Alive and well in the Yucatan!

    Gil Romero,
    MayaNeem Farms

  13. Anonymous on