Thursday, October 18, 2007

Seafood benefits vs. mercury risks

Seafood is good for you, and tasty besides. But mercury in seafood is bad for babies' brains. What's a person to do?

Conflicting advice leads to confusion, but there are places you can turn. Purdue University scientist Dr. Charles Santerre is my favorite authority, he offers clear advice untainted by bias.

I talked to Dr. Santerre in order to educate myself after some of my earlier comments raised questions, and...I learned quite a bit. That's always fun.

What's the bottom line? Careful consumption can make mercury risks minimal, and deliver the positive health benefits of seafood. Even pregnant and nursing women can support healthy babies by careful seafood consumption. See Dr. Santerre's website for details on what to eat, including a handy wallet card you can download and print.

For you biochemists, seafood offers healthy omega-3 fatty acids, including the necessary long chain variety (EPA and DHA). Under the right circumstances, our bodies can synthesize long chain omega-3s, but a typical western diet can hinder the ability of our bodies to make these fats vital for brain health and other needs. So relying on synthesis may be a mistake unless you're very careful with what you eat.

A recent controversy was created when a group pushed a new recommendation that pregnant women eat more fish than FDA guidelines, based on a study funded by the seafood industry. Now some health authorities are questioning that new advice.

Hope that clears up any confusion. In the future, I'll be recommending that pregnant women eat seafood that's low in mercury.

Now about that tainted science post...I still worry about the tainted science in the recent advice from the healthy mothers, healthy babies coalition. And now public health officials seem to agree. That doesn't change the fact that babies can benefit from seafood eaten by their mothers, so long as the mothers are careful to avoid fish with high mercury levels.


Mel said...

Excellent recommendations. People should be aware of both the risks and benefits of seafood. The decision of what fish to eat can be a challenge and often contradictory. People should know that FDA and EPA have issued advisories about mercury contamination in commonly-sold fish. The problem is, this information is hard to find and is not usually available where it is most necessary: your supermarket.
There is a campaign by Oceana, a conservation group, to pressure major grocery companies to post the FDA advice at seafood counters. See which stores post the warning signs (such as Whole Foods and Safeway), and stores that do not (i.e. Costco and Giant)- and ask these stores to post signs to help protect their consumers!

National Wind Watch -- said...

Of course, killing and eating seafood is not healthy at all for the fish themselves. And humans can be quite healthy without consuming them.

Hodad said...

get real folks, eating fish is always better than NOT eating fish,and as on my sites, I am stoked to be involved in 'the world's oldest profession'
Eric, are you one of those PETA freaks?
eat processed meat, that will kill you

we can even eat DDT w/o ill effects,and DDT is THE BEST solution for the millions killed by malaria

the human body is amazing how it can heal itself, but one has to know the techniques
and as Bubba say'z, "eat mo' fish"
but then again this is from someone that eats on the street in Mexico,Asia and Africa
but NOT on the streets of USA!