Research suggests that consuming canned tuna may provide a wide range of health benefits, from improving blood vessel function to boosting weight loss. Besides containing high-quality protein, selenium and potassium, canned tuna also possesses omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. However, canned tuna consumption might also pose risks.
Canned tuna is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. These are healthy unsaturated fats that might improve blood vessel function, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Healthy men and women were randomly assigned to eat a meal rich in omega-3 fatty acids or a control meal. Scientists reported in the March 2010 issue of the journal “Clinical Nutrition,” that subjects fed the omega-3-rich meal experienced less stiffness in their arteries compared to subjects fed the control meal.
Caned tuna serves as an excellent source of lean protein. Each 6-ounce portion contains 33 grams of protein, but less than 2 grams of fat. Your body needs protein for cell growth, a healthy immune system and uses protein to maintain your muscle tissue, and the Harvard School of Public Health mentions fish, including tuna, as a healthy protein option.
Niacin and HDL Cholesterol Levels
One of the B vitamins found in canned tuna is niacin, which might maintain high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol levels, according to research reported in the March 2008 issue of the “Journal of Lipid Research.” The HDL cholesterol is considered good cholesterol since it prevents bad cholesterol from being stored as plaque inside artery walls. Researchers from the University of California discovered that niacin prevents the liver from removing HDL from the blood, thereby maintaining HDL cholesterol levels.
Although canned tuna has several health benefits, it does contain mercury, a metal that can have adverse effects on the nervous system and brain function, especially for pregnant women, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Light tuna makes a safer option than white tuna, notes the Food and Drug Administration, because it's low in mercury. Consult your healthcare provider before consuming tuna, particularly if you are pregnant.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids
- Harvard School of Public Health: Protein: Moving Closer to Center Stage
- Science Daily: Niacin's Role In Maintaining Good Cholesterol
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Mercury
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Fish, Tuna, Light, Canned in Water, Drained Solids
- Food and Drug Administration: What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish