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Seafood group ramps up educational resources

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By Hank Schultz

Last updated on 25-Jan-2017 at 17:59 GMT2017-01-25T17:59:29Z

© iStock
© iStock

The nonprofit Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP) has announced the availability of new online education programs and resources aimed at teachers and individuals to promote the benefits of a seafood-rich diet. 

Linda Cornish, founder of the organization, said the resources have been developed for use by nutrition educators and influencers within the public health sector, healthcare organizations, schools, workplace wellness programs, and the general public.  Cornish said the effort is based on recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture and is meant to counteract the health impacts of Americans’ poor diets.

“Our mission is to help address America’s public health crisis through a seafood-rich diet,” Cornish told NutraIngredients-USA. “Only one in 10 Americans eat seafood at least twice a week. Americans are very deficient in omega-3s.”

Cornish said her group has conducted testing with kits offered by OmegaQuant, a company founded by lipid scientist Bill Harris, PhD. (Harris is also a member of the group’s scientific advisory board.)  Cornish said the tests confirmed what other sources have shown: that the average American’s Omega-3 index hovers around 3, whereas her group advocates that that figure should stand at about 8, which is where some high fish-consuming populations, like the Japanese, tend to fall.

Campaign seen as public good

“We are going into year three of our public information campaign,” Cornish said. “We have developed new resources like one-page, easy to print resources about the benefits of eating seafood. I don’t like to say these resources are ‘free,’ because that tends to make people think they’re spam. Rather, we like to think of these as a social good.”

SNP maintains that while the latest USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating seafood twice per week and taking in at least 250mg of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA per day to support heart and brain health, on average Americans are taking in just 80mg of EPA and DHA per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). SNP’s online educational resources—based on Eating Heart Healthy, the organization’s community-level nutrition intervention program developed to help individuals and families incorporate seafood into their diets—are part of an effort to reverse this trend.

Cornish said online programs are designed to build awareness and increase knowledge about the health and nutritional benefits of eating seafood; offer skill-building tools to help individuals confidently purchase and prepare seafood for their family; and provide tips and advice to assist Americans in meeting the seafood recommendation outlined in the USDA Dietary Guidelines. For nutrition educators, the resources are structured to be easily incorporated into an existing program or implemented as a new, stand-alone initiative.

“Seafood is unique in the dietary guidelines in that it does call out the specific nutrients, the omega-3s. The recommendation of 250 mg of omega-3s per day works out to 1,750 mg per week and that’s where the two meals per week recommendation comes from,” Cornish said.

GOED, SNP goals aligned

Omega-3s are also unique in that the ingredients have an entire global organization dedicated to improving awareness of them—GOED.  GOED executive director Adam Ismail said his organization’s goals and those of SNP are in alignment, even if GOED tends to fall heavily on the supplementation side of the coin, both in terms of membership and in terms of its recent information and market development activities. A win for seafood isn’t necessarily a loss for supplements, he said. And in any case, GOED tries to cover all those bases and has some of the world’s biggest seafood companies as members, he said.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say we are supplement heavy. It is correct that a lot of our recent activity has been focused on supplements because that’s where a lot of the debate and regulatory action has been at the moment,” Ismail said.

“Our goal is to focus on the nutrients. We usually make it a point to say that seafood is the best way to get those nutrients,” he said.

Both Cornish and Ismail said seafood has benefits beyond just omega-3s.  Cornish said seafood is an excellent source of lean protein, and Ismail made the point that it can substitute for less healthy options, whereas supplements exist outside of the realm of food intake.

“If you are eating seafood you are probably not eating a hamburger,” he said.

Cornish said one future improvement in education around the consumption of seafood could be more information about the precise EPA and DHA content of the various sources.  That’s a long way off, she said, because of the many species involved and the variety of habitats in which they are harvested, all of which affect the omega-3 levels in the seafood.

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