Fish, Mercury, and Fish Oil

If you like to eat seafood, or think you should eat more of it, you may feel you’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea these days. Fish is a great choice for many reasons—it tastes good, it’s a healthier source of protein than red meat, and the omega-3 fats in many types of seafood help the heart. Yet some species contain mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other contaminants. Should you stop eating fish? Cut back? Hold the line? The answer depends on who you are.Mercury and PCBs are definitely dangerous at the high doses you’d see in an industrial accident. In the small amounts found in fish, their effects aren’t as clear-cut.

In this article from the Food Properties section, we take a look at all the necessary information about this topic. Stay with 4teenweightloss .

Young children and women who are pregnant, might become pregnant, or who are nursing need to be the most careful about mercury. This metal, which comes from natural sources, industrial emissions, and burning coal, can harm the developing brain and nervous system. Yet getting enough omega-3 fats is especially important during pregnancy and when nursing because they are needed to build a developing child’s nervous system.
What about PCBs, which were banned in the 1970s but are still present in the environment? High doses kill fish and cause cancer in laboratory rats. Low doses may cause subtle developmental problems in babies. Studies in adults haven’t linked PCBs to cancer or other diseases.


To be on the safe side, it makes sense for children and women of child-bearing age to stay away from shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish (sometimes called golden snapper or golden bass) because they contain high levels of mercury. But that doesn’t mean avoiding seafood altogether. The Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency suggest eating up to twelve ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, such as salmon, pollock, catfish, and shrimp. Canned tuna warrants special attention because it is easy and inexpensive—making it something that people tend to eat often—and contains intermediate amounts of mercury. Canned albacore (white) tuna has more mercury than light tuna. To be prudent, eat it no more than once a week. (For more information, visit the Food and Drug Administration’s Web site on mercury in fish,

What about men and older women? If you’re old enough to worry about heart disease, the definite benefits from eating seafood greatly outweigh the possible (and possibly minuscule) risks from mercury and PCBs. It’s prudent to limit seafood species known to carry high levels of mercury to once a month, and you might not want to eat fish every single day.

learn more: Fats in the Bloodstream

Fish oil supplements are an alternative if you don’t like to eat fish or are worried about contamination. They deliver plenty of EPA and DHA, without the mercury— several chemical analyses of fish oil supplements show negligible amounts of the metal. However, they don’t deliver the same benefit that fish can as a replacement for a less healthy source of protein such as steak. You might consider talking with your doctor about taking a fish oil supplement that contains 600–800 milligrams of EPA plus DHA if you:

• have angina (chest pain), have had a heart attack, or are at high risk for one. (You can calculate your risk of having a heart attack using an online calculator provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Results from the GISSI trial indicate that fish oil supplements are good for people with heart disease.

learn more: Building a Better Pyramid

• engage in high-intensity sports or activities. Even though the overall risk of heart disease is generally low among people who exercise hard, fatal heart rhythms can appear during and shortly after intense activity. Formal studies haven’t yet been done on the effect of fish oil supplements in this group. Even so, it’s prudent to have plenty of omega-3 fats aboard in these situations.



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