Salmon is considered a health food by many, because of its omega-3 fatty acids and, less significantly, its protein. A study compared the benefits of farmed (mostly Atlantic salmon) and wild salmon fish (mostly pacific salmon).
Farmed salmon or Atlantic salmon, are contaminated with more environmental pollutants such as mercury, PCBs, and dioxins compared to Pacific salmon, mostly from Alaska. Many consumers have a choice between farm-raised and wild salmon.
A recent study compared the cancer and non-cancer health risks of exposure to the pollutants in salmon. In addition, the study looked at the benefits associated with consumption of salmon fish.
Eating salmon fish, regardless of the type, can give people the recommended amounts of n-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) without an unacceptable noncarcinogenic risk.
However, eating salmon fish, Pacific or Atlantic, cannot provide enough n-3 fatty acids without facing an unacceptable carcinogenic risk.
Wild Pacific salmon does have a much higher ratio of benefits to risks (non-carcinogenic and carcinogenic) than farmed Atlantic salmon as a group. However, the study found some subgroups of farmed salmon offer the same ratio as the wild salmon.
Because the benefits of salmon fish are offset by the risks associated with consumption, young children, women of child-bearing age, pregnant women, and nursing mothers should minimize the exposure of environmental pollutants in salmon fish by eating the least contaminated wild salmon or using alternative sources of n-3 fatty acids.
Source: Journal of Nutrition, November