What Do Farmed Fish Eat?

Some people like fish. I’m one of them. Salmon, tuna, trout….you name it I’m probably going to eat it if it comes out of the water and has scales. Scallops and clams are great too but as the heading suggests, today we talk fish.

MMMMM ...salmon! I love this stuff.

MMMMM …salmon! I love this stuff.

Fishing has been a part of many cultures for a long time and in all parts of the world from the Arctic on down. Here in the Pacific Northwest we are known for salmon as well as many crustaceans. We don’t have the runs that Alaska is known for, but fresh salmon is a staple for those near the coast. It’s a little harder to get as you get over the mountains and head farther inland.

One day (I honestly don’t know when) someone had the idea to farm fish. We can farm land animals so why not aquatic animals as well? As it stands, according to the WWF, not the wrestlers but the World Wildlife Federation, farmed fish are currently about 70% of the market. That’s a lot of farming. So that begs the question….is it healthy?


So what do our farmed friends eat? According to a Costco representative,

Fish meals (herring, sardines, capelin), plant proteins (soybean meal, canola meal, wheat), fish oils (menhaden, herring or sardine), plant oils (soybean, canola, or corn), vitamins, minerals, carotenoid compound for red/orange color, binder (complex carbohydrates to hold diets together).

*GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) or steroids are never used for growth enhancements” [1]

It appears they have a steady diet of soy and canola and wheat which makes perfect sense seeing as how that is what they eat in their natural environment. Yup it’s always fun around the farms at my house when the salmon come grazing on wheat and soy. The farmers are constantly spraying for salmon because they can devastate the crops.

So not only are we being told to eat more soy but we are actually making our meat eat more soy too. And don’t forget the corn oil because that’s never been shown to be bad or processed. I’m sorry for the sarcasm here but c’mon! Why in the world are we feeding delicious salmon horrible man made garbage oils?

Salmon is also known for that oh so wonderful DHA and EPA which appear to have health benefits in the form of being essential fatty acids. We can’t make em so we have to eat em!

Do these garbage oils affect the quality of the meat? Lets take a look at the profiles.

Salmon fat







*approximately 3 ounces Data: USDA Nutrient Database [2]

Wild Atlantic Salmon will get you 27% of your fat from omega-3 from around 6.34 grams per 100 grams fish. That’s 1.7 grams omega 3. If you opt for salmon you get 17% omega 3 which turns out to be about 1.8 grams which is higher, but you also get more omega 6. The ratio isn’t quite the same as in the wild. You also eat less protein per serving according to the article.

Another issue with these fish is that they have lots of added dyes to make the meat that typical pink/orange color we are all so used to. The farmed meat is a grayish white, thus to get people to buy you have to add the coloring. Add dyes to the ingredients list of farmed fish.

Farmed salmon also have more PCB than their wild counterparts. [3] [4] It was actually recommended that you not eat more than 1-2 servings of farmed salmon/month.

Salmon from Alaska seem to be the least contaminated an also have the most nutritional bang for the buck, by a lot. [4]

To complicate things, many of the salmon labeled “wild” may have been initially raised in the farms and then released into the wild. Mark Sisson gives a great rule of thumb to help determine the real deal: Alaska wild over Washington/Oregon/California and Chinook over Sockeye.

Also of note, apparently canned salmon is 100% wild because the farmed doesn’t can as well. BUT, it doesn’t guarantee it either.

Salmon is a great meal. I don’t dispute it’s not inexpensive, but definitely a nutritious choice. If you can save up and afford the wild stuff, go for it. Be careful with the farmed stuff.






4.Hites, Ronald A., et al. “Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon.” Science 303.5655 (2004): 226-229.



Folate, Folic Acid, L-methylfolate and You

I’ve talked about this particular supplement a few times and wanted to review it again seeing as how we just discussed B-12. B-9 is the number for folate. Unfortunately we won’t get to talk about B-4. Sorry Star Trek fans.

Folate is a term for for naturally occurring folate, as well as folic acid, the synthetic vitamin. This is unfortunate because there are some difference that we will see.


Folate is necessary for single carbon transfers in DNA and RNA synthesis. Without it those molecules are unable to properly be formed. The methylation of deoxyuridylate to thymidylate in the formation of DNA is required for cell division, something that folate mediates. This most commonly shows up as megaloblastic anemia, or folate deficiency anemia. It is also necessary for conversion of homocysteine to methionine.

In the gut, folate is hydrolyzed and then actively transported across into the blood. Before entering the bloodstream, it is converted to either the methyl or formyl forms of tetrahydrafolate (THF). In the plasma the most common form is 5-methyl-THF.

Folic acid, the synthetic version of real folate, can be measured in the blood, but doesn’t indicate that it actually has activity. Folic acid must enter the liver to be metabolized by dihydrofolate reductase, an enzyme to convert it to allow it to enter into the pathway that fully converts it into 5MTHFR or l-methylfolate (biologically active folate). This conversion does happen to some extent, however the amount of people who take full advantage of this conversion is limited.

Around  60% of the population are intermediate metabolizers of folate or heterozygous for genetic polymorphism of the MTHFR enzyme, whereas up to 25% of certain populations are homozygous for these genetic variations. [1] In varying degrees, these polymorphisms impair the conversion of folate to its active form, l-methylfolate. In essence, just because you take folic acid doesn’t mean you’ll convert every micro-gram into something usable. Some people are unable to convert any folate of any kind in l-methylfolate. These people must supplement.


One possible hazard with too much folic acid is the development of cancer. As one news report tells, in Chile colon cancer rose for both males and females after fortification of the food supply with folic acid became mandatory [2] and in the United States, a similar increase was seen in the late 90’s and into 2000’s when supplementation became mandatory here. [3] It has also been linked with lung and prostate cancers.

Scientist think that when a person has precancerous cells, folic acid may act like gas on a fire and allow the cells to become full blown cancer cells.[3] Excess blood folic acid is also associated with natural killer cell cytotoxicity [4]. This is the power with which natural killer cells can take out renegade cells and keep things like infections at bay. The interesting thing about this study is that women who had a folate poor diet and supplemented had increased activity in natural killer cells. Those who ate a folate rich diet and supplemented with folic acid had the reduced activity. Too much folate is not always good….no surprise there.

What to Do?

There are lots of things a person can do to get adequate folate. Eating organ meats like liver is a good start. Greens are another great form. Folic acid isn’t the best because it’s folic acid and we just learned that isn’t a form that is ideal, in fact it’s probably bad for you in some cases.

There are also a ton of supplements that you can buy and they aren’t all the same. Lets examine these. This information comes from: http://mthfr.net/l-methylfolate-methylfolate-5-mthf/2012/04/05/   This is a site dedicated to teaching people that have MTHFR genetic disorder.

  • Methylfolate
  • L-MTHF
  • L-Methylfolate
  • L-Methylfolate Calcium
  • D-Methylfolate
  • D-5-Methylfolate
  • Levomefolic Acid
  • Metafolin
  • 5-MTHF
  • 5-Methylfolate
  • 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate
  • L-5-MTHF
  • L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate
  • 6(S)-5-MTHF
  • 6(S)-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate
  • 6(R)-5-MTHF
  • 6(R)-5-methyltetrahydrofolate
  • Quatrefolic

That’s a bunch of terms. They aren’t all the same either.

L-5-MTHF = L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate = 6(S)-L-MTHF = 6(S)-L-Methyltetrahydrofolate

These are good.

L-Methylfolate Calcium = Metafolin = Levomefolic Acid

These are good

D-5-MTHF = D-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate = 6(R)-L-MTHF = 6(R)-L-Methyltetrahydrofolate

These ARE NOT good

The difference between 6(S) and 6(R) is they have different properties. They look similar to each other but don’t necessarily do the same thing. It’s kind of like the Star Wars original movies and the prequels. They both give you a dose of Star Wars, but in very different ways. The prequels of course causing cancer while the originals cure depression.

Yup, taking folic acid is like only getting the prequels, it just doesn't cut it.

Yup, taking folic acid is like only getting the prequels, it just doesn’t cut it.

So what to look for:

The forms of methylfolate that are biologically active are:

  • L forms
  • 6(S) forms
  • L-5 forms
  • Metafolin
  • L-Methylfolate Calcium
  • Levomefolic Acid
  • Quatrefolic

The forms of methylfolate that are NOT biologically active are:

  • D forms
  • 6(R) forms

The forms of methylfolate that may or may not be biologically active are the:

  • forms which do not specify L, 6(S) or trademarked name of Metafolin
  • 5-MTHF
  • 5-methylfolate
  • 5-methyltetrahydrofolate

Take a look at this product from Thorne:


The website states that it is 5-MTHF. You have to look at the ingredient list to see “L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate” So by looking at that you can conclude that it is indeed an “L-5” form and should be active.

Another page:


This shows “L-methylfolate, Metafolin” which again would be ok.

Yet another site:


shows the active ingredient as “ 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate”. By this alone you don’t know if it is active or not active. This would require you to talk with the manufacturer to find out what they use specifically. If they don’t know or just repeat back what the label says, think about looking elsewhere. 

If you receive a prescription from your doctor for the following:

  • Metanx
  • Deplin
  • Cerefolin
  • CerefolinNAC
  • Neevo
  • NeevoDHA

you can be sure that these are the active forms. They are also ridiculously expensive but are higher doses so depending on where you buy it might end up being the same. I have talked to 2 patients that use Deplin and they’ve said it makes all the difference. One said she was finally able to get pregnant and have a child because of the Deplin. She said no amount of folic acid would do it.

It’s worth noting that there are drug interactions with folate in the body.



  • Antacids, H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors (these pesky things again)
  • Bile acid sequestrants (Cholestyramine)
  • Carbamazepine
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) ie ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Sulfasalazine
  • Triamterene
  • Methotrexate

If you take any of these drugs or any others you’re not sure ok, talk with your pharmacist. If they don’t know and won’t look, leave a message in the comments.

Folate is vitally important for people to function properly, just like any of the other B vitamins and since you can’t make it yourself you have to ingest it in some form. For people with depression I’ve heard them say Deplin (prescription only) works better than their antidepressants. Having an adequate amount of folate is definitely important.





1.Greenberg, James A., et al. “Folic acid supplementation and pregnancy: more than just neural tube defect prevention.” Reviews in obstetrics and gynecology4.2 (2011): 52.

2.Hirsch, Sandra, et al. “Colon cancer in Chile before and after the start of the flour fortification program with folic acid.” European journal of gastroenterology & hepatology 21.4 (2009): 346-349.


4.Troen, Aron M., et al. “Unmetabolized folic acid in plasma is associated with reduced natural killer cell cytotoxicity among postmenopausal women.” The Journal of nutrition 136.1 (2006): 189-194.

B12: Are You Getting Enough?

B12Many people in the United States suffer from what very well could be a vitamin deficiency. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me at all. With the food supply seriously lacking in essential nutrients and minerals it isn’t a surprise at all that people are having issues with things like lethargy, anxiety and depression, and even disorders such as Alzheimer’s. These are just a few problems associated with B12 (cobalamin) deficiency. So lets talk about it shall we?

B12 is a vitamin responsible for healthy nerves, blood cells, DNA production….essentially stuff to keep you alive. B12 is available in many foods including but not limited to; shellfish, liver, fish, meat, eggs, and dairy. It is very noteworthy that plant products don’t have significant amounts of B12. Don’t be fooled by claims that state otherwise. Many of these foods are fortified with B12, but don’t have it naturally occurring or at very small amounts. And the foods that do, like seaweed, have pseudovitamin B12, which competes for absorption with regular B12. [1] One exception may be green and purple lavers, a type of algae. [2]

This is corroborated by studies that show that vegetarians and vegans are 50% and 80% deficient respectively. [3,4]

If you choose to not eat any animal products whatsoever, you need to supplement. More about that in a minute.

As mentioned above, B12 is really important for certain functions in the body. One problem associated with low B12 is many people don’t even know they are deficient. Working in a clinic I do see lab tests a lot, mostly for CBC’s and Cholesterol or A1c’s for diabetics. I don’t see B12 tests unless the doctor suspects something like anemia. But if there is neurological dysfunction, I don’t see it. The point is that since it isn’t something routinely checked for, it gets missed.

As Chris Kresser pointed out in an article:

In Japan and Europe, the lower limit for B12 is between 500-550 pg/mL, the level associated with psychological and behavioral manifestations such as cognitive decline, dementia and memory loss. Some experts have speculated that the acceptance of higher levels as normal in Japan and the willingness to treat levels considered “normal” in the U.S. explain the low rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia in that country.” [5]

The normal reference range in the USA by comparison is 247-911 pg/mL. That’s like the Rockies, one big mother range.

On top of that, a good deal of the population may have deficiency. [6] According to this study as many as 2/5 of America may have a problem. That’s around 125,000,000 people. While not everyone with deficiency show signs, it is still disconcerting. The article which I linked said that there was nothing to worry about though because we can get adequate B12 from more dairy and fortified cereals…..







Modern dietary advice giving us the only reasonable response.

Modern dietary advice giving us the only reasonable response.

Yeah because hey, fortified cereals are where it’s at nutritionally.   ……NOT!

Make no mistake, the addition of niacin to the US flour supply was probably one of the very few smart things the federal government was able to do to actually influence in a POSITIVE manner the population’s health. By helping people get enough niacin they were able to eliminate pellagra, a very serious condition that resembles schizophrenia. The problem with fortified cereals are the only nutrition you get from them are the spray on vitamins. That might be helpful for some, but meat or liver or fish is probably the much better option.

Another issue is that people experience symptoms even when their levels on are on the lower end of “normal”. It’s entirely possible that our range, like many other medical ranges may be off and probably needs to be increased.

Lets Talk About Absorption Baby, Lets Talk about You and Me!

If you don’t remember back or are new to the blog, a few weeks ago I discussed the adverse effects of taking acid reducers chronically. Here’s the link:


Acid in the stomach is an important part of the process to get B12 absorbed in the body. Acid cleaves B12 from the carrier it resides on so that it can be attached to intrinsic factor, allowing for absorption. No acid, no cleavage, no absorption. Other drugs can cause problems too. If you’re diabetic, metformin is known to reduce not only B12 but the other B vitamins as well.

People that have leaky gut or other inflammatory processes going on in the gut may have impaired absorption as well. Don’t assume just because you are a meat eater you’re getting all the B12 you need. Fixing your gut is important for many reasons and B12 is definitely one of those reasons.

Pernicious Problems

If you have problems with energy and have been able to rule out blood sugar dysregulation and sleep as potential problems, B12 might be a great place to look. People with anemia can have B12 or iron deficiencies. Since B12 is also required for myelin sheaths (the insulation on the nerves) it is thought that it is important for prevention of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis. It may also play a part in anxiety and depression as well as autism and learning disabilities in children.

Maternal breast milk has a content of B12 that is linked with intake from mom. So if a mom is a vegetarian or a vegan, it is extremely important that she supplement to get adequate supplies for the baby.


You can find B12 in just about any B-Complex. It typically comes in the form of cyanocobalamin. I want to point out that this form of cobalamin is linked with cyanide, hence cyanocobalamin. This form is usually injected at a doctor’s visit. Methylcobalamin on the other hand seems to be the form that is most useful, especially in neurological problems. [7] This is the form most used by the Japanese. In fact they don’t use cyanocobalamin anymore because it doesn’t work very well if at all.

The British also don’t use cyanocobalamin. They use hydroxocobalamin. In a paper addressing some concerns about cyanocobalamin, researchers point out that hydroxocobalamin is preferrable to cyanocobalamin and that it’s use should be discontinued. [8]

Cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin and hydroxocobalamin are the most common forms.

So if you need it, what do you use? I would recommend methylcobalamin in the oral form. There are sub-lingual tabs which absorb and bypass the gut altogether:


This would be a good option to start with if you use acid reducers or have gut problems. The one I listed is 1mg which is likely enough. For those fighting off peripheral neuropathies or trying for nerve regeneration much higher doses are likely required, as in doses used in injections.

I would stay away from cyanocobalamin if possible. I know it’s cheap and for a simple anemia where a low dose is effective then it might be ok. But to really maintain good health it’s better to use the other forms. Much like folic acid is synthetic and not naturally occurring folate, cyanocobalamin is cheap (yes I said cheap) and not as effective.

Get the best forms from your food. Fish, shellfish, meat, liver and dairy are good sources. If your gut is in need of help, get it the help it needs so you can get the B12 you need from food. If you are a vegetarian or vegan please make sure to get enough through supplements. I recommend food first of course.


1.Watanabe, Fumio, et al. “Pseudovitamin B12 is the predominant cobamide of an algal health food, spirulina tablets.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 47.11 (1999): 4736-4741.

2.Watanabe, Fumio, et al. “Characterization and bioavailability of vitamin B12-compounds from edible algae.” Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology 48.5 (2002): 325-331.

3.Antony, Aśok C. “Vegetarianism and vitamin B-12 (cobalamin) deficiency.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 78.1 (2003): 3-6.

4.Bissoli, L., et al. “Effect of vegetarian diet on homocysteine levels.” Annals of nutrition and metabolism 46.2 (2002): 73-79.





Disclaimer: All info on this website is for education purposes only. Any dietary or lifestyle changes that readers want to make should be done with the guidance of a competent medical practitioner. The author assumes no responsibility nor liability  for the use or dissemination of this information. Anyone who chooses to apply this information for their own personal use does so at their own risk.