FictionFilter: what are the consequences of an all-fish diet?
September 11, 2016 5:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm writing a piece of fiction in which the characters' diet consists entirely of fish. Ocean-caught fish if it matters, but it's not set in a specific time or place so let's say that pollution does not affect the fish. What would be the consequences of an all-fish diet?

Would they be able to survive? Would it shorten their life-span? Would it make them prone to certain diseases--scurvy, for instance? Any other effects on their bodies and day-to-day lives? I've tried googling around but having trouble finding an answer to an ALL fish diet, rather than consuming fish daily in an otherwise broader diet. Thanks in advance for your assistance.
posted by dysh to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
They would suffer from some serious constipation, for a start. No fiber in the diet is bad news. I speak from experience, I had to live on protein shakes for awhile.
posted by cabingirl at 6:01 AM on September 11, 2016


Most fish doesn't have vitamin C, which prevents scurvy. That's why the Inuit eat narwhals, I believe. It might be worth seeing if there is any research on their traditional diet.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:16 AM on September 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


The bones of people who ate a lot of fish have a lower 14C than people who don't, leading to carbon dating of these bones to date as older than they actually were when they died. E.g. http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/science/carbondating.html

Though that's probably more interesting factoid than something useful for your story.
posted by kjs4 at 6:59 AM on September 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Not directly answering your question, but this episode of Futility Closet might provide some insight.
posted by jferg at 7:01 AM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


There were fishing villages in Japan where fish made up the majority of the diet, and the people there suffered from overdose of vitamin A and vitamin D. Which are pretty serious medical conditions.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:50 AM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


You might want to read some of the books about the Shackleton expedition. IIRC their diet was a combination of fish and seal, but there were some physical effects due to deficiencies.
posted by doctord at 9:56 AM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


If this is in modern times, they would probably end up eating way too much Mercury and suffer from those side effects.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:17 AM on September 11, 2016


I'm pretty sure how they cook the fish would make some difference - have you decided that?
posted by waffleriot at 12:12 PM on September 11, 2016






From the newspaper article and Cracked interview, it's probably worth buying/checking out Steven Callahan's Adrift. Lots of nitty gritty about craving distinct raw fish organs and eating fish eyes like candy.

There's sufficient vitamin C in living animal muscle and organs for the animal to not die from vitamin C deficiency, and if you eat it raw/frozen like the inuit often do, you should be ok. I think. It's the cooking (or heating in oxygen atmosphere?) that oxidizes the vitamin C, or something.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:40 PM on September 11, 2016


There's sufficient vitamin C in living animal muscle and organs for the animal to not die from vitamin C deficiency...

Most animals have the ability to synthesize Vitamin C. It's only primates and (oddly enough) guinea pigs which cannot. (Evolution didn't pick against this loss because the standard primate diet contained enough Vitamin C so that it didn't matter. Likewise for guinea pigs.)

The reason the animals you're talking about don't have a problem with Vitamin C deficiency is that when it's low, they make more. But that doesn't mean there's necessarily enough there to keep us free of scurvy.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:15 AM on September 12, 2016


I would suppose iodine overload could be a big problem, leading to thyroid issues like hyperthyroidism or the outbreak of Hashimoto's disease.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 1:23 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


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