Amount and type of fish people eat affected by socio-economic position

People's socio-economic position affects the amount and type of fish they eat. Fried fish, which lacks the favorable effects on polyunsaturated fatty acids of other types of fish, is predominantly consumed by people with lower socio-economic status. Several UMCG researchers investigated this among Lifelines-participants. They publish about it <a href="">in the scientific European Journal of Nutrition</a>.
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Eating fish is included in several dietary guidelines because of its positive impact on health. This is because fish contains many nutrients such as proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals like iron, iodine, magnesium, potassium, selenium and zinc. In particular, the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids in fish reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.

The researchers used data from over 94,000 Lifelines participants. Of them, they examined whether education level and household income were associated with the amount and type of fish they ate. The amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids was measured in 575 participants.

The study showed that people with higher income/education eat more fatty and lean fish compared to those with lower income/education. People with lower-income/education not only eat less fish overall, but they also eat relatively more fried fish such as fish fingers, kibbeling or gourmet fish.

Furthermore, the study shows that eating oily or low-fat fish indeed leads to greater amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids. By contrast, eating fried fish has no effect on the polyunsaturated fatty acids, indicating that fried fish may lack the healthy properties of oily and low-fat fish.

The importance of this study is that it shows that not all types of fish are equal in their effects on health markers, with a worse profile for fried fish. The quantitative and qualitative differences in fish consumption may contribute to the socio-economic differences in cardiovascular disease and mortality.  Further research, as well as dietary recommendations, should account for the differences in types of fish when considering health effects.