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Ecology: Fisheries could help to tackle nutrient deficiencies

Nature

September 26, 2019

Current levels of production from fisheries could improve the nutritional status of some of the most nutrient-deficient countries in the world, suggests a study published online in Nature.

Deficiencies in micronutrients account for approximately one million premature deaths each year. However, a lack of data on the nutritional composition of most fish, and how nutrient yields vary among fisheries, has hindered the ability to harness fisheries for food and nutrition security.

Christina Hicks and colleagues developed a database of the nutritional composition of 367 fish species, from 43 countries, assessing levels of 7 nutrients that are essential to human health (calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids and protein). Using a predictive model, they found that tropical species contain higher concentrations of calcium, iron and zinc; smaller species have higher concentrations of calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids; and, species from cold regions have higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids.

Subsequently, the authors produced global estimates of the nutrient concentrations of marine fisheries and found that the nutrient quality of a fishery is determined by species composition, rather than the quantity of fish. The authors suggest that for a number of countries with populations at risk of nutrient deficiencies, the nutrients available in marine finfish catches exceed the dietary requirements for people living within 100 km of the coast. For example, just 9% of the fish caught by Namibia would be equivalent to the dietary iron requirements for its entire coastal population.

doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1592-6

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