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Secret Effects of Eating Salmon, Says Science

Do the benefits of this fish outweigh the potential risks?
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

Whether it's chopped up in a poke bowl or grilled to perfection alongside some fresh asparagus, salmon can be a delicious and healthy fish to enjoy any time of year. If you're a lover of salmon or any fish for that matter, chances are you've heard a lot of talk about possible health benefits and negative side effects. And all this talk can get confusing.

We wanted to find all the possible effects of salmon, the good and the bad. Read on to learn the secret effects of eating salmon, then make sure to check out The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now for more healthy eating tips.


You'll get plenty of vitamin B12.


Have you ever felt extremely tired and lethargic, only to have someone recommend a B12 supplement to you? This is because vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient in maintaining a healthy system of nerve and blood cells in our body.

When we are deficient in B12, we may experience weakness, weight loss, and even depression. And according to the National Institute of Health, we need B12 to help prevent megaloblastic anemia, a blood problem that can lead to lethargy and exhaustion.

Because our body can't store its own B12, we have to get this vitamin from food or supplements.  The good news is that salmon is overflowing with vitamin B12. To put it in perspective, the daily recommended intake of B12 is 2.4 micrograms, and there are around 2.38 micrograms of B12 in a 3 oz. fillet.

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You may consume pollutants.


Any time we consume fish, we run the risk of potentially ingesting pollutants from the ocean. Dioxin, a chemical pollutant caused mostly by industrial waste, is commonly found in the fat of salmon.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that dioxins are considered toxic and can lead to potential health issues if consumed in larger quantities. Some research also links dioxin intake with cancer and reproductive issues, but the actual evidence of this claim is inconsistent.

It may sound scary, but the risks are rare. According to Foods Journal, experts still recommend salmon as a reliable source of healthy nutrients, despite the risk of dioxin and other chemicals.

BMC Public Health also performed a benefit-risk assessment on salmon in 2020. They concluded that even after the potential risks of consuming added pollutants and chemicals through salmon, the cardiovascular and overall health benefits of this fish outweigh the risk factor.


You may improve your heart health.

bonefish grill salmon
Courtesy of Bonefish Grill

Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely beneficial for maintaining a healthy heart. You can find omega-3 in things like flaxseeds, chia seeds, certain nuts, and you guessed it—salmon! Salmon is one of the richest sources with around 2,260 milligrams of omega-3s per 3.5 oz. filet.

According to Circulation, omega-3 fatty acids help our heart by lowering our triglyceride levels (fat that is carried in our blood) and increasing our body's "good" cholesterol levels, which decreases our risk of heart disease.


You might reduce inflammation.

poached salmon in cast iron pan with chilies cilantro and lime wedge
Courtesy of Recipe Tin Eats

Chronic inflammation in our body can lead to a number of health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and chronic pain. Thankfully, the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty fish have been linked to reducing inflammation.

According to a report from Biochemical Society Transactions, EPA and DHA (two types of omega-3 fatty acids) can have anti-inflammatory effects in our cell membranes. Omega-3's in the form of supplements even yielded positive anti-inflammatory results in some patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

RELATED: The Worst Eating Habits for Inflammation, Says Science


You may improve your brain health.

applebees blackened cajun salmon
Courtesy of Applebee's

Fatty fish like salmon can possibly improve our brain health and even slow cognitive decline as we age. A study of Chinese adults from the Journal of Nutrition found that the powerful nutrients in fish (including salmon) like vitamin D, vitamin B, magnesium, and selenium, can have a positive impact on cognitive function.

Of the participants who were above the age of 65, those who consumed fish more than once a week saw better brain improvement than those who consumed less than one serving of fish per week.


You'll consume a helpful antioxidant.

mediterranean salmon salad

Salmon gets its natural pinkish/red color from a chemical compound called astaxanthin. This is a naturally occurring pigment that is also an antioxidant with tons of health benefits.

According to a review published in Marine Drugs, astaxanthin has been linked to having anti-inflammatory properties, as well as positive impacts on reducing the risk of certain cancers and diabetes. In particular, wild-caught salmon is known for having a high amount of astaxanthin.

A 2005 study from the Asian Journal of Andrology even found positive results on male fertility and sperm velocity after being given a trial of astaxanthin.

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Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha