Fish has always been considered among the healthy sources of protein. Compared to beef and pork, it’s much lower in fat, cholesterol and calories. At the same time, it’s packed with vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that are good for our health.

Unfortunately, not all fish are the same. Some have been contaminated by the high levels of mercury in the seas. Those that are farm-bred, meanwhile, pose major health risks that we should definitely stay away from.

Tilapia, one of the most popular farm-raised fish that many people eat, is much loved for its cheap cost and delicious taste. It is in fact the fourth most consumed seafood in the United States, as reported by the National Institute of Fisheries. But with every bite we’re putting our health on the line.

Why is eating tilapia dangerous? Here are the top reasons:

You are more prone to inflammation

Fish is the usual go-to seafood of those who want to up their intake of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3, as you probably know, benefits the health by lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol in the bloodstream, and boosting the immune system. It also prevents arthritis, depression, heart disease, and even cancer.

However, a study conducted at the Wake Forest University in 2008 revealed that tilapia contains more omega 6 than omega 3, with a ratio of 11 to 1. Although omega 6 is also needed by the body, the healthy omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is 2 to 4. Higher omega 6 means an increased risk in asthma, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions as it is notorious for causing inflammation inside the body.

You are at greater risk for cancer

There have been numerous reports that farm-bred tilapia from China are fed with animal feces, and thus can increase your risk of cancer 10 times more than fish caught in the wild. According to these reports, farmed fish are fed with feces from ducks, chicken and pigs.

There’s reason to believe that these are not merely speculations. In 2009, the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) examined farm-raised seafood imported from China, and revealed that many of the farms and food processors in China are located in industrialized regions where air, water and soil are contaminated.

Moreover, the study states that “it is common practice…to spread livestock and poultry waste on fields or use it as fish feed.”

News organizations like MSN News and Bloomberg reported that the practice of feeding animal feces in tilapia farms was indeed rampant in China. This is cause for concern since more than 70 percent of tilapia in the U.S. are imported from China. In 2006, China-imported tilapia has been included in the Seafood Watch list of fish to avoid.

You could ingest antibiotics, pesticides & chemicals

Since they are raised in crowded fish pens, tilapia are more prone to diseases. Farm owners give them antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick. They’re also given pesticides to treat sea lice, a common problem. These chemicals are effective but are nevertheless harmful to people’s health when ingested.

Dibutylin, a chemical used in creating PVC plastic, can also be found in farm-raised tilapia. This toxic chemical has been known to cause inflammation and weaken the immune system. It can also increase the risk for allergies, asthma, obesity and metabolic disorders.

Another toxic chemical in tilapia is dioxin, which has been linked to the onset and progression of cancer and other serious health problems. It’s quite shocking how long it takes for the body to flush out this chemical–seven to 11 years!

All these reports about farm-raised tilapia are sure to leave a bad taste in your mouth. Don’t worry. Tilapia is not the only fish in the world. There are many others that are safe to consume, and won’t put your health in danger.

Featured photo credit: Tilapia/Nate Steiner via

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