Is fish skin safe to eat? (Health benefits)
In this brief guide, we will answer the question “Is fish skin safe to eat?”. We also will discuss the nutritional value of fish skin, and when to avoid it.
Is fish skin safe to eat?
Fish skin is safe for consumption. It constitutes approximately 8 to 10% of the fish’s total weight and has often been overlooked as a valuable byproduct in the fish fileting industry. Interestingly, larger fish may have their skin or heads consumed along with their flesh, while smaller fish are commonly enjoyed whole.
In certain Asian countries, one can find a popular snack consisting of salt and egg yolk-flavored fish skin. Traditionally, fish skin has primarily been utilized as animal feed.
However, it is important to note that fish skin holds significant value as a source of collagen. Therefore, exploring extraction methods for collagen and gelatin from this fish byproduct shows great potential in enhancing its overall worth. (1, 2)
What is the composition of fish skin?
Fish skin is a valuable source of essential nutrients, encompassing fatty acids, protein, minerals, and vitamins. It serves a dual purpose in both animal feed supplements and as a stabilizing agent in food production. Rich in high molecular weight elastic proteins, fish skin has an impressive concentration of collagen, an integral connective tissue protein.
The nutrient composition of fish skin is subject to variation influenced by factors like species, age, gender, health, nutritional status, and the time of year. On average, it comprises around 15% to 30% protein content with lipids ranging from 0% to 25%, while moisture levels can fall between 50% to 80%. (3, 4)
What are the health benefits of consuming fish skin?
Fish, known for its beneficial compounds, has by-products that are equally abundant in these compounds. This makes fish skin a valuable source of polyunsaturated fatty acids with numerous functional effects.
When consumed as dietary supplements derived from fish, they provide advantages in treating conditions associated with inflammation like cardiovascular disease, ulcerative colitis, and hyperlipidemia.
In addition to this, the proteins present in fish skin, including immunoglobulins, act as defense mechanisms against viral and bacterial infections while also preventing protein-calorie malnutrition. The skin’s high concentration of fish oil contains constituents such as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which regulate various signaling pathways.
Moreover, fish living in their natural habitat face the constant risk of encountering harmful pathogens. To combat this, their skin acts as the primary defense mechanism. Remarkably, peptides extracted from fish skin have demonstrated significant antimicrobial properties when tested against various microorganisms, including Escherichia coli, Streptococcus iniae, and Micrococcus luteus. (5)
What are the safety concerns related to fish skin?
Fish can accumulate heavy metals through gill and skin contact. This accumulation may lead to toxic levels for human consumption due to bioaccumulation and biomagnification. The safety of consuming fish is influenced by the presence and concentration of pollutants, particularly heavy metals.
The risks associated with these pollutants vary, as certain elements can pose toxicity concerns even at low levels, while others require higher concentrations to become problematic. It is important to note that consuming fish and fish products containing heavy metals beyond safe limits can have adverse effects on human health.
In areas known for the presence of mercury (Hg), arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), and lead (Pb), it is advisable to avoid consuming fish skin since these harmful substances tend to be more concentrated in that area. (6)
What are the uses of collagen extracted from fish skin?
Collagen can transform into gelatin through thermal or acid/base treatments. In the food industry, gelatin plays a crucial role in enhancing the elasticity, consistency, and stability of various products. Additionally, it holds great importance in the pharmaceutical industry for encapsulation and film-forming processes.
Moreover, when gelatin is hydrolyzed through enzymatic techniques, it produces bioactive peptides with functional properties such as water solubility, emulsification, foaming, and fat binding. These peptides also possess bioactive properties like antioxidant effects and potential benefits against cancer, bacteria, hypertension (ACE inhibitor), hyperglycemia, and Alzheimer’s disease. (7)
In this brief guide, we answered the question “Is fish skin safe to eat?”. We also discussed the nutritional value of fish skin, and when to avoid it. Through my research, I was able to uncover the health benefits of fish skin and the collagen extracted from it. In my perspective, fish skin is safe to eat, but it should be avoided in places where there is the presence of heavy metals.
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Beveridge MC, Thilsted SH, Phillips MJ, Metian M, Troell M, Hall SJ. Meeting the food and nutrition needs of the poor: the role of fish and the opportunities and challenges emerging from the rise of aquaculture. Journal of fish biology.Oct;83(4):1067-84. 2013.
NURILMALA, Mala et al. Fish skin as a biomaterial for halal collagen and gelatin. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, v. 29, n. 2, p. 1100-1110, 2022.
BANERJEE, Indrani et al. Prediction of Fatty Acid Profile of Fish Skin from the Fish Flesh Fatty Acid Composition: A Regression Modelling Approach. In: Proceedings of the Zoological Society. New Delhi: Springer India, 2023. p. 1-11.
Pateiro M, Munekata PES, Domínguez R, Wang M, Barba FJ, Bermúdez R, Lorenzo JM. Nutritional Profiling and the Value of Processing By-Products from Gilthead Sea Bream (Sparus aurata). Marine Drugs. 2020; 18(2):101.
CHEN, Jiali et al. A critical review on the health benefits of fish consumption and its bioactive constituents. Food Chemistry, v. 369, p. 130874, 2022.
MAULU, Sahya et al. Fish nutritional value as an approach to children’s nutrition. Frontiers in Nutrition, v. 8, p. 1090, 2021.
TEKLE, Sefik et al. Bioactive and Functional properties of gelatin peptide fractions obtained from sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) skin. Food Science and Technology, v. 42, p. e60221, 2022.