There have been multiple conversations circulating as to whether or not tilapia is as bad for you as bacon. Studies have shown the adverse of effects from consuming tilapia, however, it should not be labeled as unhealthy. There are several factors to consider when looking at this fish. These include tilapia farming, the diets of the fish, and the cost — all create an impact that could effect the fish negatively. 

The Bacon and Tilapia Comparison

In 2008, a study from Wake Forest University revealed tilapia to have "fatty acid characteristics that are generally accepted to be inflammatory by the health care community." Because of the study, health comparisons of tilapia to bacon were then made, questioning whether or not tilapia is really a healthy food choice.

According to Men's Journal, "Tilapia raised on farms in China and Central America — which accounts for most of the tilapia we get — has very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and negligible omega-3s, thanks to their diets."

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Floyd Chilton, director of the Wake Forest Center for Botanical Lipids, says "Tilapia is easily farmed using inexpensive corn-based feeds, which contain short chain omega-6s...This ability to feed the fish inexpensive foods...keeps the market price for the fish so low that it is rapidly becoming a staple in low-income diets."

To put it basically, the difference between omega-3s and omega-6s is that omega-3s are known to tame inflammation, while some omega-6s tend to promote inflammation. However, both play a pretty important role in brain function and your growth and development. 

According to the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, Tilapia has a higher ratio of Omega-6s to Omega-3s, which in turn can promote inflammation and can aggravate heart disease and other illnesses. Due to the high omega-6s in tilapia, bacon then shares a similar link.

Tilapia Farming

The demand on fish has caused fish farms to grow and lead to a rush in production. Berkeley Wellness states, "Fish farms, when not properly managed, are infamous for having adverse effects on the environment." 

Although there are many credible global producers of tilapia, some farms in under-regulated countries can get away with practices that could harm the environment and the quality of the fish. According to Men's Journal, these farms have been known to raise diseased tilapia in tight quarters and sometimes feed the fish feces, so infection is easily spread. They then pump the fish with antibiotics. 

According to Columbia University, beyond the health of the fish, the health of the local environment is damaged when forests are cleared to make room for on-shore fish tanks and farm land to grow the fish's food. Even worse, Berkeley Wellness says that there's a "polluting of water and the spread of disease to wild fish when farmed fish escape their pens." Not to mention, the waste water needs to be disposed of properly to prevent further pollution.

According to Aaron McNevin, director of aquaculture at World Wide Fund, "only about 15 percent of the tilapia available in the U.S. carried the ASC seal — the best indicator of safe, responsibly raised fish." However, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, also has seafood recommendations on where to find the safest seafood, both for you and the environment.


There have been several steps taken towards improving aquaculture, which is good, because aquaculture is huge player in global food security. In 2014, the World Bank stated that by 2030, fish farms will produce nearly two thirds of the global food fish supply. 

In order to make a lower environmental impact, some farms are moving out further into the ocean's open waters where stronger currents can help naturally flush fish waste and pests out of the farms. The open waters also give fish a better quality of water, so they become less stressed and in turn, less susceptible to disease. Many fish farms on land have also started using recirculation systems to recycle their water. 

Chilton has said that tilapia shouldn't be 'branded 'unhealthy' just because similar to bacon, it's high in omega-6s. However, if you're eating tilapia specifically to get your fix of omega-3s, you may want to choose another fish, like salmon. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, eating a filet of tilapia is still better than downing a greasy, double cheeseburger.

All in all, while tilapia is not the most productive choice when it comes to fish, there still are several benefits to eating it, like the fact that it contains about 23 grams of protein per 4-ounce serving. But it's important to know where your fish is coming from, in addition to not falling under the false illusion that just because it's a type of fish, it's always the healthiest choice.