Mercury from eating fish does not raise risk of stroke or heart disease, according to a toenail study. Yes, a toenail study involving tens of thousands of toenails suggests that normal consumption of fish in a regular diet is probably okay. Why the toenails? Nails are a good way to determine long-term exposure. It”s not the first time we”ve turned to toenails, in another study toenails were used to help predict risk of lung cancer.
Regardless, there have been many mercury scares causing people to avoid fish even though it”s packed with vital omega-3 and omega-6″s.
Mercury, which finds its way into our waterways from coal plants, volcanos and other sources, accumulates in fish in the form of methylmercury. Large fish, like tuna, have higher levels of mercury because they live longer and also ingest smaller fish that contain mercury, allowing the heavy metal to build up. When we eat the fish, we ingest the mercury as well. The primary danger of overexposure to mercury is neurotoxicity. Fetuses, infants and children are most susceptible to the effects of mercury, and it”s consumption can lead to developmental delays including impaired cognition, motor skills, memory, language, attention and visual spatial skills.
This is not to say that we should eliminate fish from our diets altogether. Fish, after all, is an important part of a healthy diet, providing a great source of protein and heart-healthy, brain-boosting omega-3 fats. Although the following guidelines for fish consumption have been established with children and women of childbearing age in mind, everyone should make low-mercury choices when possible:
- Light tuna is usually lower in mercury than white tuna, and therefore a better choice.
- When it comes to canned tuna, young women and children should limit their intake.
- Children under 45 lbs. should consume less than 4 oz. of light tuna or 1.5 oz. of white tuna per week.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should eliminate tuna from their diets entirely.
- Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, orange roughy, marlin and tilefish
- Eat up to 12 oz. (around two servings) of low-mercury fish per week. Low-mercury fish include salmon, shrimp, catfish, pollock, anchovies, crab, haddock, sardines, oysters, tilapia and trout
- Check with your local advisory about fish caught by family and friends in area waters