Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD
Blaylock Tip of the Week
Health authorities are encouraging us to eat more fish. There is good reason. Higher intakes of omega-3 oils, the healthy oil found in seafood, have been associated with dramatic reductions in cardiac deaths, ischemic strokes, cancers, arthritic pain and disability, as well as acting as a powerful protectant for the brain.
But many fish are also high in mercury, which is one of the most poisonous metals in existence, as well PCBs, dioxins, pesticides and herbicides.
So, is it really safe to eat more fish, and if so, which fish are safe? This, in essence, is the dilemma for the general public and a significant number of scientists as well.
The EPA (which regulates fish from sports fishing) and the FDA (which regulates commercial seafood) have set limits for "safe" mercury levels in seafood, but they do not share their concerns about contaminants with the general public through the media or public alerts.
The reason is they are treading a thin line of trying to protect the public, while, at the same time, not wanting to destroy the seafood industry. Likewise, they cannot even agree on a "safe" level of mercury, with FDA levels being much lower than EPA levels.
Independent studies have shown that the type of mercury found in seafood, called methylmercury (or organic mercury), is highly toxic to a number of organs and tissues, especially to the developing brain of fetuses and newborns.
The elderly are also at high risk because age has weakened their cells, especially brain cells. Recent alerts have been issued by the regulatory agencies, as well as physician groups, suggesting that pregnant women should avoid eating fish known to have high mercury levels.
Some seafood is naturally low in mercury and is safer to eat. When buying seafood, choose:
Wild Alaskan salmon
Some seafood is high in mercury and PCBs:
Chilean sea bass
Atlantic salmon (farmed)
The EPA and FDA list four fish that should never be eaten:
Despite this warning, most seafood restaurants serve one or more of these toxic fish - and most grocery stores and supermarkets sell them - and never even warn pregnant women of the danger. Remember - mercury accumulates in the body and studies have shown that mercury accumulates in the fetus in higher concentrations than in the mother.
Here's a great cooking tip: Cook your seafood with garlic. Garlic has been shown to bind and reduce levels of mercury in the body, making it less toxic. For more detailed information on the dangers of eating contaminated fish, read my full report, "Eating Fish: What You Need to Know."