Lake Trout are Heart-Friendly

Live Trout

There are an estimated 100 million siscowet lake trout ages one year and older in Lake Superior, according to the Chippewa/Ottawa Treaty Fishery Management Authority. One type of oil found in siscowets is thought to be healthy for your heart.

Fat can be good for you. This is perhaps an unpopular notion in these fat-phobic times. But it’s true, if the fat is the right kind: fish oil. And Lake Superior fish are good sources of oil, according to Paul Addis, professor with the University of Minnesota Department of Food Science and Nutrition.

“All Lake Superior fish are fairly well-endowed with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, said Addis. “Siscowet lake trout is an amazingly fat fish--50 percent of its wet weight is fat. Lake herring is also a good source of omega-3 oils.” Addis discovered this through Sea Grant-funded research a decade ago. Before that, it was assumed that only saltwater fish were high in omega-3’s.

Although there is some disagreement in the medical community about the specific effects of omega-3, recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of heart disease.

“Fish oils work a lot like aspirin,” Addis explained. “They prevent blood clots by reducing the activity of the blood platelets.” Platelets are the clotting factors in blood that are the number one trigger of heart attacks. Omega-3 fish oils may also help prevent breast cancer if combined with a low-fat vegetable-rich diet, Addis said.

To achieve maximum benefits from fish oil, people would need to eat more than 1 pound per day of a fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, or lake trout. “Deep fried cod is not adequate,” said Addis. “Cod isn’t fatty and frying fish in oil can counteract the benefits of the fish’s native oil.”

graph showing fatty acid in different fish

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Content in Lake Superior Fish

Eating this much fish is unrealistic for some people. Fish oil capsules offer another source. Fish oil capsules are big business. Omega Protein Corporation, one of the largest producers of fish oil for human consumption, reported revenues of $117.6 million in 1997. The oil used in the capsules is routinely processed to remove some of the rancid compounds and contaminants like PCBs. To provide maximum health benefits, one Minnesota-based company even removes some of the cholesterol that’s naturally in the oil.

Addis offers these tips about choosing a capsule:

  • Talk to your doctor before taking capsules, especially if you’re taking other blood thinners (like Coumodin) because you can thin your blood too much.
  • Check out each jar you buy. Some commercial oils are rancid or have suffered nutritional losses. Taking them may be worse than taking nothing.
  • If you break open one capsule and it smells strongly of fish (they all smell a little fishy) or has a painty flavor, you should not take it. (This means the oil is rancid.)
  • Find a good brand and stick with it.

Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to help fish survive in cold water, Addis said. “The fatty acids lubricate the membranes around the fish’s cells.”

Addis discussed the health benefits of Lake Superior fish at a Sea Grant herring and lake trout marketing workshop in January at Marquette, MI. The workshop was held for commercial fishing operators and fish processors who wanted to learn more about marketing these fish.

For more information about Addis’ findings, order our free publications, Fish Oil and Your Health and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Content of Lake Superior Fish, on our publications page and our mail order form. Paul Addis can be contacted at the University of Minnesota, 612.624.7704 or by e-mail.


By Marie Zhuikov
June 1998

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