Pan Frying Lean Fish in Sunflower Oil May Offer Better Health Benefits

February 16, 2010


CHICAGO – Pan-frying cod fish with sunflower oil may lead to a higher consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, according to a new study in the Journal of Food Science published by the Institute of Food Technologists.

Many studies have recommended consuming fish high in omega-3 fatty acids to promote optimal health. Pan frying is the most common way that fish is prepared, and it can affect the amount and quality of the fat content in the fish.

Researchers from University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, analyzed lean and fatty fish (cod and farmed salmon) after the application of pan-frying, using extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil.
Results showed the following:

  • Both oils have nutritional value; however, the use of extra virgin olive oil led to a higher fat absorption rate than the sunflower oil in both fish. 
  • The fat content of the salmon was hardly affected by pan-frying, while the cod showed a significant increase in fat content with both oils. 
  • The dietary supply of omega-3 in salmon was much higher regardless of oil type used when pan-frying.

“With these results it is possible to conclude that, regarding the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, pan frying lean fish with sunflower oil may be more beneficial than using olive oil because it would lead to a higher consumption of these compounds.  However the use of extra virgin olive oil was efficient to avoid a significant increase of the lipid oxidation intensity during frying in cod,” said lead researcher Diana Ansorena. “The type of oil has more influence in the nutritional fish quality for the lean fish compared to that of the fatty fish”.

To receive a copy of the study, please contact Jeannie Houchins at



The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere. 

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© 2010 Institute of Food Technologists

Jeannie Houchins, MA, RD