Eating Tilapia is Worse Than Eating Bacon

Fish-FarmWe all have the notion that eating fish would be the better option over bacon when it comes to health. And the truth is, it really is… most of the time! Fish is a low fat, high protein food that has a range of health benefits. However, given what we know of fish and its sources today, we may have to re-examine this statement.

Fish can either be one of the best foods for you or detrimental to your health depending on where it is sourced. There is a world of difference between a fish that is caught in the wild, farm-bred or farm-raised fish. The most common farm-raised fish are: salmon, tilapia, sea bass, catfish, and cod.

So why would farm raised fish be toxic to our health? What are the dangers of eating farm-raised fish? We’ll answer all of those questions below!

6 Reasons Tilapia Farming is Dangerous to Your Health

  1. Recent Studies have found that farm-raised Tilapia may cause more inflammation - Farm-raised tilapia has always been a popular source for fish, not only because it is widely available in the US, but it is also very inexpensive. However, before you stock up on Tilapia, you may want to know about its correlation to inflammation. Recent studies have concluded that eating Tilapia may worsen inflammation that can lead to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and a world of other serious health problems. People who resort to eating more fish as a way to get their dose of omega-3-fatty-acids and lessen their risk of heart attacks may want to hold off on the tilapia. In fact, a scientist from Wake Forest University has found that the inflammatory potential of tilapia is far greater than that of a hamburger or pork bacon!
  2. Farmed salmon may have at least 10 times the amount of cancer causing organic pollutants compared to the wild variety – This can most likely be attributed to the feeds that are used on farm raised fish. If you knew what went into the feeds of farm raised fish you would be horrified. Apparently, chicken feces is one of the main ingredients that go into farm fish feed. Not only that, the transfer of pig and duck waste to fish farms is also a very common practice.
  3. Farm-bred fish have been found to have high concentrations of antibiotics and pesticides – Where do farm-bred fish get their antibiotics? The crowded conditions of fish farms cause the fish to be more susceptible to disease. To keep them alive, farm owners give antibiotics to the fish to stave off disease. Farm-bred fish are also treated with pesticides to combat sea lice. The pesticides used to treat these fish are so deadly that they have been caused to kill wild salmon that are accidentally exposed to them. These pesticides are also eventually released in the ocean where they get into the bodies and systems of other marine life.
  4. Farm-bred fish also have lower levels of healthy nutrients- Many of us consume fish, hoping to reap the omega-3 fatty acid benefits that come with it. However, did you know that the omega-3-acids that are found in farm-raised fish are less usable to our bodies compared to wild bred fish. Farm-raised fish also has a lower protein content. Not only that, because farm-raised fish are kept in cages, they have the tendency to be fattier, and can have a higher concentration of omega-6 acids. The problem with getting too much omega 3 and omega 6 acids is that they may cause inflammation to the body.
  5. Dibutylin levels, a chemical used in PVC plastics is said to be 6 times higher in farm-raised mussels compared to wild ones – Dibutylin is toxic and can impair immune system function while also contributing to inflammation. Dibutylin may be the reason as to why there is a rise in asthma, obesity, allergies and other metabolic disorders in recent years.
  6. Dioxin levels are 11 times higher in farm-bred salmon compared to wild salmon – Dioxin is actually a very toxic chemical that can contribute to cancer and other complications. The problem with dioxin is that once it enters our system, it can take a very long time until it is let out. The half life of dioxin is about 7 to 11 years.

These are only some of the dangers that have been linked back to eating farm-raised fish. What does this tell us? The biggest lesson that we can get from this is that we should find out where our fish is coming from. Not all fish are created equal, and sad to say, farm-raised fish, instead of helping us, may even harm us.

In addition to farm-raised fish being bad for you, there is actually one other creature of the sea that is even more toxic. That creature is shrimp.

Farmed Shrimp the Dirtiest of All Seafood

Shrimp actually holds the designation of being the dirtiest of all seafood, says Marianne Cufone director of Food and Water Watch. She says it’s hard to avoid, as 90 percent of shrimp sold in the U.S. is imported. “Imported farmed shrimp comes with a whole bevy of contaminants: antibiotics, residues from chemicals used to clean pens, filth like mouse hair, rat hair, and pieces of insects,” Cufone says. “And I didn’t even mention things like E. coli that have been detected in imported shrimp.”

Part of this has to do with the fact that less than 2 percent of ALL imported seafood (shrimp, crab, catfish, or others) gets inspected before its sold, which is why it’s that much more important to buy domestic seafood.

What to Eat Instead of Tilapia Recipes

Fish can be an incredible health building food if you go with wild-caught fish liked Sockeye Salmon. It’s loaded with the Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA and has incredible health benefits.

One of my favorite healthy meals that is low cost and easy to make is a homemade salmon patties recipe that is high in omega-3 fats and protein.

Plus, salmon contains astaxanthin which has been proven to be more powerful than almost any other antioxidant at absorbing free radicals. If you are not consuming Salmon or another wild caught fish during the week then I highly recommend you consume a high quality fish oil supplement with astaxanthin.

When I eat out, I also ask my server if the fish is farm-raised or wild caught. Most servers know this answer or can quickly go ask the head chef. As a quick rule of thumb for salmon, if it’s Pacific or Alaskan, it’s most likely wild caught, if it’s Atlantic salmon, it is almost always farm-raised.

Do you consume tilapia or farm-raised fish or do the ingredients worry you?  Also, do you enjoy wild caught fish like alaskan salmon?



ScienceDaily. “Tilapia contains potentially dangerous fatty acid ratio.” Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. (accessed 11 July 2008)

Love, David C. Environmental Science Technology, 2011, Veterinary Drug Residues in Seafood Inspected by the European Union, United States, Canada, and Japan from 2000 to 2009. 45(17)7232–7240.

New York Times. Another Side of Tilapia The Perfect Factory Fish. (accessed January 2012).

Environmental Working Group. Reports Farmed Fish PCB’s. (accessed March 2012).

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36 comments so far - add yours!

  1. Yuri says:

    Thank you very much!

  2. Theolana says:

    Dr. Axe, what are your thoughts on canned wild caught salmon and also canned tuna?

    • Susan says:

      I was at a health conference in Atlanta where Dr. Axe was teaching along with Jordan Rubin and Dr. Caroline Leaf. I actually asked this same question and Dr. Axe said he is fine with canned wild caught salmon and finds it to be an affordable alternative to fresh.

  3. Glenn says:

    So how is it worst then bacon? What is wrong with bacon?

  4. ann says:

    did you know this!

  5. andrew says:

    So why do you have to bash bacon, where’s the backup evidence to support your claims that bacon is not good for you – I disagree!

  6. John says:

    I’d like to see evidence that bacon or hamburger is inflammatory. I avoid teh same thing wild fish avoid: corn and soy but also wheat.

  7. aCountryVegan says:

    I do appreciate you bringing to light the dangers of eating farm raised fish, but there are other healthy sources of Omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA without eating fish, including flax and chia seeds for the omegas and algae & seaweed for EPA and DHA. Also not everyone can afford to spend $16 to $35 a pound for fish from your online fish source. One ounce of Salmon has:
    total Omega-3 fatty acids 316 mg
    while one 1/4 ounce of ground flaxseeds has: total Omega-3 fatty acids 1597 mg
    At over $2 an ounce for the fish source you suggested and a little over 5 cents for the flaxseeds, I think I will stick to the flaxseeds.

    The nutrition data was from

    • Dr. Loren Marks says:

      I can appreciate your cost conversion on omega 3s from a vegetarian source to a animal one, but you fail to realize that it is not the same comparison. The value of both are derived from their EPA/DHA content. Vegetarian sources have been studied and Schmit at NASA Ames has published data that states that for every one hundred molecules of flax seeds, only 1 can be converted into EPA/DHA. Additionally, it is a long and arduous metabolic pathway requiring many nutrients as co factors for this conversion to occur. If you don’ t want to eat the fish, for your vegan diet, consider taking the fish oil. But do continue to eat the seeds for their lignans.
      Dr. Marks

  8. Bambi says:

    Thank you for this article! I know pork is extremely unhealthy (its a scavenger, it will eat its own feces! After all, you are what you eat… including what they ate)! I also knew the way conventional beef and chickens are raised is unhealthy too but I didn’t realize so many of the same practices are used in farming fish! I can’t afford really good quality fish online, but I can afford the canned wild salmon. Also, my husband loves to fish, but even so you have to check with others to make sure which lakes are okay to eat the fish out of. I live in FL where there are plenty of lakes but some (especially in park areas where lots of people are at) are too poluted to eat the fish. If you don’t agree about conventional meat being unhealthy for you, I seen a couple of documentaries that will turn your stomach called “Frankensteer” and “A River Of Waste” (both can be found on Netflix too).

    • Stephen says:

      A note on pork poop:

      Not only will hogs eat their own feces, but, many animals do so when food is scarce or they’re under nourished.

      When hogs are humanely raised thru organic methods, rarely, if at all, will they eat their own feces.

      Basically, any conventionally raised animal, regardless, if it is on a family farm or commercial farm, is all bad. Don’t be fooled by the “family farm” hype.

      We have been involved with humane animal practices and organic farming for sometime and it’s very frustrating to see so many farmers are claiming to have organic methods, free range and grass fed. That’s only on the surface!

    • Marilyn says:

      My son lives in Fairview and has 15 acres. He has free range chickens that run all over the yard and eat poop and all kinds of worms and bugs. So, I buy good eggs at Kroger.

      • Ginny says:

        Chickens naturally work through manure to find bugs and seeds. Their digestive systems are designed to eat those things. Your son’s free-range chickens are living a much healthier life than the chickens who provide eggs for grocery stores. Those chickens are kept in confinement, kept awake 23 hours a day, have their beaks filed down (to prevent cannibalism), and are fed a steady diet of soy, corn, antibiotics, hormones, and chemicals. So you’re much better off with your son’s eggs.

  9. Dennis Valverde says:

    Thanks Dr. Josh Axe I’ll keep that in Mind
    I Take fish oil omega 3 gel caps with D3 in it.
    I will try the wild sockeye salmon.

  10. Liz says:

    I have been wondering about the safety of Alaskan Salmon lately, due to the radiation from Japan. Do you have any info about that? I haven’t found too much info online about this issue.

  11. Wade says:

    I do think you should look into the The Weston A. Price Foundation’s articles on Fish Oil_in the U.S. a naturally produced, unheated, fermented high-vitamin cod liver oil that is made using a filtering process that retains the natural vitamins.
    The high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil is sold as a food so does not contain vitamin levels on the label. However, after numerous tests, the approximate values of A and D have been ascertained at 1900 IU vitamin A per mL and 390 IU vitamin D per mL. Thus 1 teaspoon of high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil contains 9500 IU vitamin A and 1950 IU vitamin D, a ratio of about 5:1.

  12. Lesley says:

    I am quite concerned about any fish coming out of Alaska or the Pacific right now due to the radiation from Fukushima. Most of the fish from the web site recommended in this article is from the Pacific. Do you recommend any other sites where we can purchase non-Pacific, non-Alaskan wild caught fish?

  13. Guerry says:

    Thanks, Dr for the info. Change in my fish
    diet right away.

  14. mare brennion says:

    i find really good wild caught (sometimes fresh) fish at harris teeter on hwy 100, and they will answer questions about them.

  15. Nancy says:

    What about aquaponics? See
    Are you condemning all farmed fish?

  16. Travis says:

    Wild fish may be better for you but it’s really not a viable option for anyone that cares about the environment. Wild fishing is notoriously hard to regulate and as a result most of our fisheries have been wiped or are on track to be depleted within decades ( .

    The last thing we need is for everyone to get it in their head that they should only eat wild fish. I agree that conditions at farms should be better but that’s no reason to go wiping out species.

  17. Dylan says:

    When I go to check out vital choice as a source of Wild Salmon, it says that it is Sustainably Harvested. Isn’t that just another way of saying Farmed?

  18. tracy says:

    I am interested in all the perspectives, but choosing an acceptable balance between price, quality, taste, ease of purchase, nutritional value, and availability is sometimes just an exercise in futility.

    Gotta die of something, right?

    I guess I’ll have my bacon burger with a side of tilapia, a multivitamin and a eulogy.

  19. Fisher says:

    You could always go fishing too.

  20. Rita Maggi says:

    Recently I was in the Caribbean snorkeling and instead of viewing a beautiful reef, I viewed old shoes, plastic bottles and glasses, tin cans, etc.Not to mention that tons of garbage and nuclear waist is polluting our vast ocean resource. Therefore, I don’t understand how fish caught in the wild is any better than farm raised.

  21. dean says:

    Nothing is good for you unless you eat in moderation.That’s the key.

  22. EverythingIsWorseThanBacon says:

    Everything is worse than eating bacon. I agree

    Bacon is unhealthy? I disagree

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