Seafood and nutrition

  • Sjømat og ernæring
    Photo: Emil Weatherhead Breistein/HI
  • IMG_5895 Seksjon sjømat i modellsystem.JPG

Seafood safety, and the relationship between seafood consumption and human health are important factors for knowledge-based advice. Our research contributes to increased knowledge concerning seafood and human health, and we provide updated data on the contents of nutrients and undesirable substances in seafood.

Regularly updated data on the content of nutrients in seafood is vital for studying relationships between seafood intake, nutritional status and potential health effects, and thereby dietary advices. Today, food from the sea represents a relatively small proportion of the world's food supply. To evaluate the potential of new marine resources for human consumption, knowledge on the content of nutrients and undesirable substances is required. To cover knowledge gaps, we systematically analyze fish and other marine species collected in Norwegian and international waters.

The group is responsible for monitoring farmed fish and we analyze over 15,000 fish annually on behalf of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. We are also in charge of continuously updating the Seafood Database , an open online database covering levels of numerous nutrients and undesirable substances in more than 30 fish species, including farmed salmon, 25 different shellfish species and about 40 different refined? seafood products.

We also investigate the importance of seafood in ensuring adequate nutrition and a healthy diet. Nutritional security is a term that encompasses whether the diet contains sufficient nutrients to ensure proper development and healthy lives. Adequate dietary intake and nutritional status are essential factors during pregnancy and during a child's first year of life. However, these factors are also important for good health and well-being for the entire population. The term, nutritional security, is not necessarily linked to undernourishment and insufficient energy intake. Suboptimal nutritional status may occur along with being overweight, and related to conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.

A limited variety of foods contain sufficient levels of iodine and the highest levels are found in lean seafood. Globally, iodine deficiency is one of the main causes of impaired cognitive development in children, and several studies show that pregnant women in Norway have sub-optimal iodine status. Iodine is essential for thyroid hormone production, important for optimal growth and brain development during the first 1000 days of life. Therefore, low iodine status may result in reduced learning ability in children. Additionally, sub-optimal iodine status and the associated imbalance in thyroid hormone production may have an impact on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In collaboration with national health registries and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, we participate in surveys of iodine status and investigate the possible link between iodine status and heart disease in the elderly. We are also exploring the potential contribution of algae, seaweed and kelp to improved iodine status.

The group investigate the effects of a recommended weekly intake of seafood on the nutritional status and health using population studies, national registries and participation in human intervention studies. To investigate the underlying mechanisms, we use rodents as a model system. In particular, we have focused on how seafood can protect against the development of obesity and diabetes. Using model studies, we can also identify the negative health effects of undesirable substances, such as environmental pollutants. A combination of animal studies and cell studies also provides the opportunity to investigate how undesirable substances and nutrients interact and the consequences of such interaction.

All results are published in international peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, we provide data to the Food Safety Authority, the Scientific Committee for Food Safety (EFSA) and FAO`s database for Seafood (INFOODS). The data are used in risk-benefit analyses and to provide dietary recommendations.

We participate in supervising PhD- and master students in biology, pharmacy, chemistry, molecular biology and nutrition in collaboration with the Universities in Bergen, Oslo, Copenhagen, Addis Ababa and Ghana.