Mercury Levels In Fish And Shellfish – The Deadly Truth

Mercury Levels In Fish And ShellfishProtein is essential for a healthy lifestyle and together with this is a good dose of omega 3 fatty acids which are found in fresh fish and shellfish. The goal of being heart healthy and providing your family especially the children the proper growth and development, one should include a well-balanced diet. Women and children who are prone to vitamin or mineral deficiencies can get these necessary nutrients from powerful fish and shellfish sources.

However, the truth is, most fish and shellfish now have mercury traces. Others are not bothered by this issue but recent discoveries prove that escalating contents of mercury in these sea foods can actually bring damage to the nervous system specifically in unborn babies and children. The portion of intake of fish and shellfish is proportional to the amount of mercury one can introduce in the system. Women who are planning to get pregnant, pregnant women, lactating mothers, and children should avoid certain fish varieties and lessen their intake of fish and shellfish classified as containing mercury. This warning is brought both by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

3 smart tips in choosing the right fish or shellfish for your own health and lessening the risk of mercury related illnesses:

  1. Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish are known to have hazardous mercury levels – it is best to never eat them.
  2. Load up your weekly diet with 12 ounces or 2 average meals of various fish or shellfish known to have minimal mercury content.
    • Top 5 in the list of having low mercury content are: shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
    • Healthy fact: albacore (“white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. The better option is eating 6 ounces or one average meal of albacore tuna for the week.
  3. Update yourself of advisories in the local area regarding the safety of fish or shellfish caught in the lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is given, your best bet is eating around 6 ounces or one average meal per week of fish and give up any fish consumption during the whole week.
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Smaller portions should be made available for the kids and young ones.

FAQs on mercury in fish and shellfish

“What is mercury and methylmercury?”

Mercury is naturally present in the environment and industrial pollution increases its level in the air. Once mercury reaches the streams and oceans in high levels, methylmercury is formed and this is proven to be fatal for unborn babies and children. Certain types of fish living in these contaminated waters, can absorb the methylmercury that ends up as our food source.

“Should methylmercury be of concern if I am a woman not planning to get pregnant?”

Intake of food sources high in methylmercury can increase your methylmercury level absorption in the body through time. Though the body has an amazing way of getting rid of the methylmercury, usually this takes a long time (around 1 year) for it to drop significantly. Its presence in our bodies is already felt even before we plan to get pregnant, so this is the main reason why pregnant women should avoid fish or shellfish high in mercury levels.

“Is there methylmercury in all fish and shellfish?”

Traces of methylmercury can be found in most fish and shellfish. The longer the fish stays in waters having methylmercury, the greater chance of accumulating this harmful substance. Risky food sources are large fish like sharks, swordfish and mackerel. Please check the FDA and EPA recommendations of certain types of fish with low mercury content.

“I don’t see the fish I eat in the advisory. What should I do?”

The the FDA food safety website or the EPA website provide the list of fish varieties and their corresponding mercury levels.

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“What about fish sticks and fast food sandwiches?”

These food items mostly come from fish having low mercury content.

“The advice about canned tuna is in the advisory, but what’s the advice about tuna steaks?”

Tuna steak generally has higher mercury content than canned light tuna. The best choice is eating up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of tuna steak per week as an equivalent of choosing your weekly portion of two fish meals.

“What if I eat more than the recommended amount of fish and shellfish in a week?”

The body’s level of methylmercury is not changed by the fish consumption during the week. When consuming lots of fish for one week, make sure to lessen your intake for the next week or two. Simply average weekly recommendations.

“Where do I get information about the safety of fish caught recreationally by family or friends?”

Do check the Fishing Regulations Booklet as your guide for recreationally caught fish. Another place of useful information like local advisories is the local health department. It is necessary to check these advisories because fish in certain local waters may have varying average levels of mercury. Fish caught with low mercury levels can be included frequently and in larger amounts as part of your daily balanced diet and a lifelong healthy lifestyle.

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