Aquaculture has a key role to play Published: 01 June, 2010
TORGER Børresen and Joop Luten, president and vice-president of the EU-supported SEAFOODplus Research Platform, say aquaculture has a key role to play in delivering healthy food for consumers.
Latest data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation shows capture fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 110 million tonnes of food fish in 2006. Of this total, aquaculture accounted for 47 per cent and the figure is expected to grow.
According to Børresen and Luten, this raises important sustainability issues as to the availability of sufficient fish meal and fish oil supply for aquaculture feed. They say the introduction of feed from vegetable sources is an alternative, but if protein and lipid composition deviates from the marine sources, it will have a negative impact on both the health of the farmed fish as well as on the final quality and nutritional properties of the product for consumers.
The researchers say: This is a serious challenge for the future expansion of aquaculture and calls for research to develop new feed sources. The common recommendation for consumers to eat seafood twice a week is based on the well-known fact that omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. However, research also shows that seafood may prevent other lifestyle diseases, improve cognitive development and mental health, and may also prevent the development of cancer and allergy. The importance of seafood in the diet is this more far reaching than just the well-known effects of omega-3.
Large integrated FP6 European research projects such as SEAFOODplus have in the last five years contributed to new knowledge about the importance of seafood for consumers health and the perception of fish as food, with a particular attention to aquaculture. But new insights have raised challenging research questions: What are the underlying molecular mechanisms of the observed health effects? What is the beneficial role of important nutrients other than omega-3, like proteins, peptides, amino acids, vitamin D and selenium, all of which are components in seafood? What role can aquaculture play in the production of fish with an ideal nutritional composition as food helping to combat lifestyle related diseases? How can we develop innovative products from farmed fish that will stimulate the consumption of seafood?
Børresen and Luten add: A holistic approach towards answering the questions raised on designing optimal nutritional farmed fish products with a high eating quality, and its impact on human health, is a challenge and must be addressed. The total feed components comprising lipids, proteins, peptides, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and trace elements must be considered an in-depth studies are needed with respect to the metabolism of various fish nutrients and their effect on the bioactive lever of human health related components in the final product. To test the design of farmed fish with optimal nutritional composition for its health effect, studies will be needed at in vitro and in vivo level involving both animal studies and intervention trials on humans.
However, we would miss our final goal of improved consumption of seafood, helping to prevent diseases, if the products from farming with the ideal nutritional composition are not consumed. Therefore, an important additional task for the future is consumer-oriented seafood product development.
European research should generate new knowledge of innovatively designed farmed fish, improve the competitiveness of European industries, particularly SMEs, and secure the delivery of seafood to satisfy a steadily growing market for healthy food. It will contribute to the ongoing potential of the food industry to improve human health.