Nutritionists have professed for many years that fish consumption is good. They rave about the reduction of risk of disease, assisting in weight loss, preventing obesity, and that ultimately consuming fish would extend our lives. So who do we believe, the FDA or nutritionists? It seems that both the FDA and nutritionists are correct and I have outlined some of the information below to make it easier to understand.
According to the FDA, the fish they are targeting as dangerous are shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. All of these fish contain dangerous levels of an extremely destructive form of mercury called methyl mercury. This heavy metal attacks the nervous system of a growing fetus, resulting in brain damage and learning disabilities. This metal is also linked with seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness.
The FDA suggests that at-risk women avoid eating large quantities of these predatory fish which may contain high levels of methyl mercury instead choose ocean species or farm raised varieties. The FDA also released a report indicating that pregnant and nursing women may safely eat 12 ounces of cooked fish per week. Sorry, sushi is not an option.
Connection between mother and child
A mother’s prenatal diet is extremely important to the health of your unborn child. A study was performed in New Zealand on 237 six and seven year children, which focused on the mother’s prenatal diets which included large amounts of contaminated fish. The study revealed all children scored low on cognitive function tests.
Should women who are not pregnant and men watch their fish intake?
Although the warnings were directed to women who were pregnant or within child bearing years, many experts believe that contaminated fish may affect people of all ages.
Mercury occurs naturally in the the environment, however pollution is the blame for the contamination. Government studies show that fossil fuel power plants generate large levels of mercury emissions. Mercury in its natural, relatively safe form enters the air and falls into the ocean, lakes and streams. In some instances, mercury in polluted soil is washed into waterways. Once in the water, mercury interacts with microscopic sea life and undergoes biological reactions that change in into the deadly methyl variety.
Should we avoid fish altogether?
Of course not! The best health choice is not to avoid fish but to choose wisely.
Try to avoid fish that are caught in polluted waters. Avoid bottom-feeders which are at a greater risk of heavy metal contamination. Bottom-feeders include tuna, catfish (unfarmed variety), shark, whale, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and monkfish. Avoid large consumption of raw seafood. Sushi and other raw seafood are generally safe and healthy but there still is a greater health concern when compared to cooked fish. Stay away from unfresh fish. The longer fish sits out, after it is caught, the greater its chances of being contaminated with bacteria, which can provoke food poisoning. Always ask a salesperson to hold out the fish before purchasing it. Fresh fish has a slight salty odor, a contaminated fish will have a distinct odor that will actually make you turn your head away. Avoid those fish and ask for a fresher catch.
The health benefits can be placed in two categories:
- fish is a lower-fat, lower-calorie source of protein than meat
- Seafood has an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce diseases and reduce inflammation
It is wise to either consume fish that is cooked or has not been contaminated. Seafood is a great source of vitamins, but avoid the types discussed if pregnant, of child-bearing years or nursing. It is best to be safe and not have to worry about the consequences at a later date.