Seafood Consumption in the United States, 2013–2016

Questions for Ana Terry, Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Seafood Consumption in the United States, 2013–2016

Q: What surprised you most about the findings in your report?

AT: Although the findings were not necessarily surprising, we found that seafood consumption was more than twice as high among non-Hispanic Asian adults compared with adults of other race and Hispanic-origin groups.  More than 40% of non-Hispanic Asian adults consumed seafood at least twice per week compared to about 19% of non-Hispanic white, 23% of non-Hispanic black, and 15% of Hispanic  adults.  This is consistent with other studies, which have found that people of Asian descent living in the U.S. consume seafood more frequently, in greater variety, and in greater quantity than non-Asian Americans (Liu et al, Environmental Research, October 2017).


Q: Do we know why there is such a disparity between US Asians and other race/ethnic groups when it comes to consuming the recommended amount of seafood?

AT: We analyzed data from the 2013-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that was collected by a food frequency questionnaire in which persons were asked about the frequency and type of fish and shellfish they consumed in the previous 30 days.  The questionnaire did not ask for the reasons why individuals consumed or did not consume seafood. Other studies have found that diet patterns in Asian countries include fish and shellfish intake levels greater than the average seafood consumption worldwide and that the food choices of people of Asian descent living in the U.S. , are influences by Asian dietary patterns (Liu et al, Environmental Research, October 2017).


Q: Does the fact that seafood consumption has declined mean the population is at less of a risk for mercury exposure?

AT: We did not assess mercury exposure in this report.


Q: What are the health benefits to eating seafood?

AT: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend for the general population consumption of about 8 oz per week of a variety of seafood. Fish and shellfish are excellent sources of high quality protein, are low in saturated fat, are rich in minerals and vitamins, and provide certain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that the body cannot make and are important for normal growth and development.  Seafood and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to protect against health problems.


Q: What kinds of seafood are most healthy to eat?

AT: Cold water oily fish have the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids but lower in methyl mercury (according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans). Cold water oily fish include:  Salmon, Anchovies, Herring, Shad, Atlantic and Pacific mackerel

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