FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2011
Tips attributable to Kelli M. Ward, DO, an AOA board-certified family physician from Lake Havasu City, Ariz., and a spokesperson for the American Osteopathic Association
(CHICAGO) — While fish and shellfish are packed with great nutrients, they also contain traces of mercury, a contaminant found in fish that can affect brain development and the nervous system. Kelli M. Ward, DO, an AOA board-certified family physician from Lake Havasu City, Ariz., offers the following reasons why people, especially all women of child-bearing age regardless of whether or not they are pregnant, should limit, but not eliminate, their consumption of fish.
Although the risk from mercury by eating seafood is not a health concern for most people, it can be an issue for pregnant women or women of child-bearing age since large amounts of mercury may harm an unborn baby.
Even if a woman stops eating fish after she becomes pregnant, the fetus is exposed to what’s already in the woman’s body, including mercury from seafood she ate before getting pregnant, since mercury from fish gets stored in the body typically up to one year.
As a general guideline, people should eat up to 12 ounces (two 6-ounce servings) per week of a variety of seafood that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna or salmon.
People who like eating albacore tuna should make that their only serving of fish for the week since albacore tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna.
While it’s true that too much of a good thing can be harmful, people, including pregnant women, shouldn’t eliminate fish from their diet. In fact, the fatty acid and omega 3 in fish can help increase a fetus’ brain development.
Who should worry about their exposure to mercury? People who eat large fish, such as shark, swordfish or king mackerel, since bigger fish tend to have the highest levels of mercury because they can’t eliminate mercury as fast as they take it in. All women of child bearing years and children should avoid eating these types of fish.
To see if it is safe to eat fish caught on a family fishing trip, check local advisories about the safety of fish caught in local lakes, rivers and coastal areas to see if it is an area safe to catch fish from. Information about bodies of water with high levels of contaminants is available from local public health departments and by contacting the United States Environmental Protection Agency at www.EPA.gov. If no advice is available, only eat 6 ounces of fish caught from local waters but then don’t consume any other fish during that week.
When preparing a fish caught yourself, it is important to clean the fish by trimming away the skin and fatty tissue. This helps reduce the pollution in the fish.
Once a fish has died, the mercury level does not increase. Therefore, if you stock up on seafood on sale at the grocery store, the fish contains all the mercury it is going to have and therefore it won’t matter how long it’s been in the freezer.
There is no way to avoid mercury completely. Even vegans are exposed to mercury in drinking water as well as the water that helps plants grow. The good news is that people naturally get rid of small amounts of mercury in their bodies over time.
(800) 621-1773, ext. 8159 (Toll free)
(312) 202-8159 (Office)
(800) 621-1773, ext. 8038 (Toll free)
(312) 202-8038 (Office)
About the American Osteopathic Association
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 70,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs); promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.
How to Use These Tips
These tips may be excerpted or used in their entirety for any print or broadcast story with appropriate attribution of source.