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May 22, 2009

 

As we all know fish is a popular dish for decreasing the waist line. Fish is an important part of a balanced diet. It's full of vitamins and other nutrients, good for our hearts because the omega-3 fatty acids lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and fish is low in calories. But is it safe to eat? Experts warn that fish eating can be dangerous, since new studies have raised concerns about the unsafe levels of mercury and other contaminants found in fish that have the potential of causing grave health problems. The consumption of fish is by far the most significant source of ingestion-related mercury exposure in humans. Eating fish contaminated with mercury, a poison that interferes with the brain and nervous system, can cause serious health problems, especially for children and pregnant women.

The Risk

The effects of mercury contamination are a cause of concern for us all.Warnings have been issued for pregnant women and children. But, in a recent clinical study, high levels of toxic mercury, called methylmercury, were discovered in blood and hair samples taken from dozens of patients -- men, women and children. Mercury intake is especially dangerous for pregnant and breastfeeding women because fetuses and newborns are very sensitive to mercury.

The symptoms

Affected children may show red cheeks and nose, erythematous lips (red lips), loss of hair, teeth, and nails, transient rashes, hypotonia (muscle weakness), and photophobia. Other symptoms may include kidney disfunction (e.g. Fanconi syndrome) or neuropsychiatric symptoms (emotional lability, memory impairment, insomnia). It causes memory loss, hair loss, fatigue, depression, difficulty concentrating, tremors and headaches. Because it is hard for the body to eliminate, it can build up and may affect the nervous system.

So what Kind of Fish Should you Eat

Big fish have more mercury for the simple reason that big fish usually live longer. They have more time to build up higher levels of mercury in their bodies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends checking local advisories for the mercury content of fish caught in your area using this website. The lists below gives details of general mercury levels of many common types of fish and how much of each type to eat (according to the National Resource Defense Council).

LOWEST MERCURY

Eat 2-3 servings a week (pregnant women and small children should not eat more than 12 ounces (2 servings):

  • Anchovies

  • Catfish

  • Clam

  • Crab

  • Crawfish

  • Flounder

  • Haddock

  • Herring

  • Mackerel

  • Mullet

  • Oyster

  • Perch

  • Pollock

  • Salmon

  • Sardine

  • Scallop

  • Shrimp

  • Sole

  • Squid

  • Tilapia

  • Trout

  • Whitefish

MODERATE MERCURY

Eat six servings or fewer per month (pregnant women and small children should avoid these):

  • Bass

  • Carp

  • Cod

  • Halibut

  • Lobster

  • Mahi Mahi

  • Monkfish

  • Perch

  • Snapper

  • Tuna (Canned Chunk light)

HIGH MERCURY

Eat three servings or less per month (pregnant women and small children should avoid these):

  • Bluefish

  • Grouper

  • Sea Bass

  • Tuna (Canned Albacore, Yellowfin)

HIGHEST MERCURY

Avoid eating (everyone):

  • Marlin

  • Orange Roughy

  • Shark

  • Swordfish

  • Tilefish

  • Tuna (Ahi)

Sources:

Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish

Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish

National Resource Defense Council. Mecury Contamination in Fish.

Centers for Disease Control. Public Health Statement for Mercury. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Mercury in Dolphins and Whales

Dolphin meat contains naturally high levels of mercury. But mercury levels in dolphin meat sold in Japan is far higher than would occur in nature and certainly higher than is allowed under the health standards of any developed nation. There are also high levels of cadmium and PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) as well as chemicals of the dioxin group. In some cases the levels of mercury are 1,600 times the allowed quantities in meat for human consumption. The consumption of mercury in the quantities that exist in whale and dolphin meat can impair immune response and cause neurological damage leading to loss of coordination, vision, hearing and can produce mental retardation, especially in the young. The fatty tissues of dolphins and whales contain extremely high levels of PCBs, chemicals associated with the "estrogen effect". In effect these chemicals mimic the female hormone estrogen and may cause a feminizing effect in those who consume this meat. In women this may lead to increases in breast cancer. In men it may lead to enlargement of breasts.

So What should be doing?

  • Avoid fish , become a veggie if you can. If you are pregnant or nursing a child, avoid fish altogether.

  • If you love however your fish , please keep in mind that you eat fish with low mercury contents , details of which are given above.

  • Eat 2-3 servings a week (pregnant women and small children should not eat more than 12 ounces (2 servings) per week.

  • The FDA also warns pregnant women against eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish because of the high levels of mercury. The government is also advising consumers to mix the types of fish they eat and not to eat any one kind of fish or shellfish more than once a week

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Posted: Friday May 22, 2009, 9:23 am
Tags: fish mercury deepak [add/edit tags]

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