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Seafood Choices: Balancing Benefits and Risks
ment for any omega-3 fatty acids; rather, an estimate of adequacy, the AI, was derived from the highest median intake of ALA in the United States.
Target intake goals for seafood consumption for the general population and recommended EPA/DHA intake levels for specific population subgroups have been put forward by both public agencies and private organizations (reviewed in Chapter 1). Whether there are benefits to the general population that are related specifically to EPA/DHA obtained from consuming seafood is not clear from the available evidence. A low-saturated-fat, nutrient-dense protein food such as seafood does represent a good food choice for the general population and this is reflected in the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to choose low-fat foods from among protein sources that include fish (see Chapter 1). The evidence in support of recommendations to increase EPA/DHA intake, whether from seafood or fish-oil supplements, among the population groups that would most benefit is presented in the following discussions.
It should, however, be kept in mind that the benefits of seafood consumption for health may not be limited to intake of EPA/DHA. Other nutrients present in seafood may provide specific health benefits or even facilitate the action of EPA/DHA. Additionally, substitution of seafood for other food sources may decrease exposure to nutrients that are shown to increase health risks, such as saturated fats. On the other hand, some contaminants or toxins present in seafood may decrease or negate the benefit of EPA/DHA, as illustrated by the dilemma in making recommendations for seafood consumption in pregnant women, considering the potential benefits of EPA/DHA compared to potential risks of methylmercury exposure to the fetus. Therefore, when assessing the question of benefits of seafood consumption, seafood should not be considered as equivalent to EPA/DHA. This differentiation may explain some of the inconsistencies in the findings described below. In other words, demonstrated benefits of EPA/DHA do not necessarily mean benefits of seafood, and lack of benefit from EPA/DHA does not necessarily mean lack of benefit from seafood.