The Mercury Conundrum: Should You Worry?

fishtails
>
“Conundrum: a): a question or problem having only a conjectural answer b): an intricate and difficult problem.”
>
Yesterday, we received a couple of health-related questions at Passionfish www.passionfish.org asking, “Does shrimp have mercury?” followed by “Should I even be worrying about mercury levels in seafood? I haven’t heard of anyone with mercury poisoning due to seafood!”
>
Turns out that you are safe to eat shrimp — the critters contain no detectable levels of mercury. Whether you should worry about mercury depends on whether you are eating the large predator fish, and whether you are pregnant or planning to become so.
>
Basically, if you are pregnant, nursing, or have a weakened immune system, the commonly known fish that health experts say you should avoid are swordfish, shark, and tuna (fresh or frozen). Small fish fear these big fish for good reason. Swordfish, shark, and tuna are “top dogs” in the ocean. They eat lots of smaller fish. As a result, even minute amounts of bad toxins found in the small fish become concentrated in the flesh of larger fish. Mercury is one such compound that accumulates in the muscle of swordfish, shark, and tuna. It doesn’t cook away with the fat. Fetuses are sensitive to mercury, as are people who have compromised immune systems due to illness.
>
Some fish contain mercury because it’s in our environment due to industrial pollution, but most fish have levels that are far below the consumption limits set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The body naturally clears itself of mercury although it can take a year. Because developing embryos are the most susceptible to the effects of mercury, health experts recommend that pregnant or nursing women (and women planning to become pregnant) and children under age six avoid seafood highest in mercury. Fish at the top of the food chain have the highest levels of accumulated mercury in their flesh and should be avoided during certain times in your life. The full list is: swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tile fish (also called golden bass or golden snapper), orange roughy, Spanish mackerel, marlin, grouper, tuna (fresh or frozen), bass (Chilean), and walleye. Also, if you catch fish recreationally, be sure to check with your state’s advisory. If you are not sure, “catch and release” the fish.
>
[Also, women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid all raw or undercooked meats---that includes sushi and sashimi. Because these foods have not been cooked, naturally occurring bacteria can be present. A type of bacteria called Vibrio that can cause illness occasionally infects healthy adults and children but rarely do these people become seriously ill. Babies, however, can be miscarried or be born ill if their mothers have eaten food containing these bacteria during pregnancy.]
>
Tuna fish sandwiches: White canned tuna (albacore) contain a moderate level of mercury and health experts recommend that pregnant or nursing women and young children eat four ounces per week (equal to one meal every two weeks). However, light canned tuna has lower mercury content and health experts advise that eight ounces (or one meal) per week can be eaten.
>
It’s important to know that seafood is very wholesome, full of vitamins and minerals, easily digestible, and is an excellent source of protein and healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. And, according to a recent US National Academy of Sciences peer-reviewed report, the benefits of eating seafood far outweigh the risks and most of us should eat more of it, rather than less, in order to receive its many health benefits. Health experts recommended that people eat 12 ounces of seafood per week. As comparison, 3 ounces of cooked seafood is about the size of a deck of playing cards. Try replacing a hamburger with a seafood filet and see how you feel: lighter, more energetic? Fish is simply a lighter, healthier protein.
>
Meanwhile, if you’re pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or nursing, be sure to eat fish that are highest in Omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout, mackerel, whitefish, sardines, and anchovies because the long-chain Omega 3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) are essential for your baby’s nervous system development. Also, a tasty new fish on the market is Kona Kampachi, an Hawaiian yellowtail, high in healthy Omega 3s and with no mercury. Check out Kona Blue to find out where you can purchase this delicious, sashimi-grade fish. www.kona-blue.com.
>
Last, as a sustainability group, Passionfish knows that reconciling a healthy ocean with the demands put on it by increasing consumption is a very, very tricky balancing act. We work hard to bring you the most respected, well-researched and vetted information on seafood that’s good for you and for the environment.
>
If you are worried about the level of mercury in your body, the Sierra Club offers a test for just $25.
>
Meanwhile, if we discover recent scientific evidence that people have developed high levels of mercury from over-consuming at-risk seafood, we will post that information on this blog. We’re sure that this posting on mercury in seafood is the first of many to come.
>
Team Passionfish

del.icio.us Digg it Netvouz Newsvine reddit StumbleUpon Wink Yahoo MyWeb

Leave a Comment

Name (required)

Mail (will not be published) (required)

Website

Comment