Wellness News 8-7
Sunday, April 26, 2009

By Deana M. Newman, M.A., C.C.P.

There are numerous nutritional benefits to consuming a diet with fish and shellfish: omega-3 fatty acids to promote a healthy cardiovascular system, high protein for strong muscles, and its low in saturated fat to name a few. 

However, certain populations must monitor the intake of fish/shellfish to protect their health due to variations of mercury levels.  

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “…some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system. The risks from mercury in fish and shellfish depend on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and the levels of mercury in the fish and shellfish.” 

The Centers for Disease Control have also reported that high levels of mercury exposure can permanently damage the brain resulting in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and/or memory problems.  Therefore, women who plan to become pregnant, currently pregnant or nursing, and young children are cautioned to avoid certain types of fish and encouraged to eat fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. 

Typically, adults who do not fit under the “high-risk” categories are not “at-risk” for developing these ailments, yet they are still encouraged to follow the same plan and select fish and seafood with lower mercury levels.

For additional information about the risks of mercury in fish and shellfish call the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's food information line toll-free at 1-888-SAFEFOOD or visit the FDA's Food Safety website www.cfsan.fda.gov/seafood1.html. Likewise, information on the safety of locally caught fish and shellfish can be found by visiting the Environmental Protection Agency's Fish Advisory website www.epa.gov/ost/fish or through contacting your State or Local Health Department directly.


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