“Shouldn’t we use more of the fish we already produce for human consumption? asked researcher Kristin Solheim Hustad and her colleagues from the Department of Nutrition at the University of Oslo. They looked at several of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals – better nutrition, food security and ending hunger. The goals also state the importance of conserving and using the oceans and marine resources sustainably (SDG 14).
The scientists wanted to know if fishmeal made from salmon waste could affect vitamin and mineral levels in the blood. Participants in their study were asked to take ten capsules three times a day for eight weeks. Half of the participants received capsules containing salmon fishmeal and the other half received only a placebo.
The level of vitamin B12 and selenium in the blood of participants who took capsules containing fishmeal increased significantly compared to that of the placebo group. The researchers also looked at other substances such as vitamin D, omega-3s, folate (vitamin B9) and zinc, but found no changes in their levels, according to Hustad.
Acceptable level of environmental toxins in fishmeal
When asked if people could eat fish fillets instead, Hustad referenced another study, where participants ate fish fillets and also achieved higher levels of vitamin B12 and of selenium in their blood. However, they had to eat a lot more fish than when taking the capsules.
In recent years, much attention has been paid to environmental toxins in fish. But Hustad can reassure us on this count.
“The fishmeal content did not exceed tolerable levels of the toxic substances we studied, including mercury, dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs,” she says.
Many of us have low selenium intake
The researcher explains that the study is important because 40% of Norwegian pregnant women have a low selenium intake. Sources of selenium and B12 are meat, fish, seafood, eggs and dairy products. In addition, cereals and certain types of nuts can provide us with selenium.
The amount of selenium in our food depends on the content of the soil in which the food is produced. In Europe, the soil is low in selenium, which means that Norwegians are particularly susceptible to selenium deficiencies. We don’t know what proportion of the population is vitamin B12 deficient, but the proportion increases with age, she explains.
Other uses of fishmeal
You can add fishmeal to the batter when baking bread. In one study, participants reported liking bread as much or better than bread without fishmeal. Additionally, bread containing fishmeal had higher protein, essential fatty acid and mineral content, but was lower in carbohydrates.
Salmon does not have such a strong smell
When asked if the bread smells strongly of fish, she replies:
“Fishmeal made from salmon will not smell as strong as that made from cod, for example. This is because salmon contains only a small amount of trimethylamine, the substance that produces the strong fishy smell.
If we use more fish for human consumption, it will lead to a lack of food elsewhere. What will happen to animals that depend on food derived from fish?
“Animals must of course be fed food that keeps them healthy. They can, for example, receive foods of plant origin or foods of animal origin using ingredients from the bottom of the food chain. Currently, research is also being conducted on the use of insect meal,” says Hustad.
The study was a collaborative project between the University of Oslo, the research organization Møreforskning in Ålesund and MOWI, which is a Norwegian producer of farmed salmon. The study was funded by the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund.