Foodservice Footprint sardines Swap red meat for sardines for good health Foodservice News and Information  news-email email-news

Swap red meat for sardines for good health

Replacing red meat with anchovies, herrings and sardines in diets could reduce the risk of death from illnesses such as heart disease, according to new research.

Forage fish, the name given to this group of small pelagic fish, are highly nutritious, environmentally friendly, affordable and the most abundant fish species in the ocean, according to the study published in the BMJ Global Health journal. However, researchers said little research has examined the impact of replacing red meat with forage fish on diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Their research found that if forage fish were substituted for red meat in diets, as many as 750,000 global deaths from diet-related disease could be avoided in 2050 along with up to 15 million years of life lived with a disability.

Evidence has shown that red meat, especially processed red meat, is associated with increased risks of NCDs in humans including heart disease and some forms of cancer.

The study said that seafood not only provides higher concentrations of essential nutrients than terrestrial animal-source foods but also helps prevent diet-related NCDs since it is rich in omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Additionally, forage fish have the lowest carbon footprint of any animal-source food that meets nutritional requirements. However, only approximately 26% of caught forage fish are currently consumed by humans with the majority used for feeding farmed seafood, such as salmon and trout.

Researchers used data on projected red meat consumption in 2050 for 137 countries alongside data on forage fish catches. They modelled four scenarios in which they replaced the red meat consumption in each country with forage fish from marine habitats, without exceeding the potential supply of forage fish. They then used a comparative risk assessment framework to investigate how such substitutions could reduce the global burden of diet-related NCDs in adults.

Although, overall, forage fish can only replace around 8% of the world’s red meat due to its limited supply, the study found that it may increase global daily per capita fish consumption close to the recommended level of 40 kcal per day in most countries.

“Our study demonstrates that forage fish, if widely adopted for direct human consumption, would potentially offer substantial public health benefits,” the researchers concluded.