Americans, even pregnant and nursing women and children, should eat seafood two times a week, according to a statement issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The new guidelines were issued despite concerns that pollutants may be contaminating fish and other seafood.
Benefits of Omega-3 Touted
The new statement includes findings that say seafood reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, diabetes and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Further, nutrients in fish including salmon, shrimp, pollock, cod, canned light tuna and catfish -- particularly omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and choline -- are important in brain development and may improve conditions such as autism, attention deficit disorder and dyslexia, researchers say.
What About the Mercury?
The guidelines have based their recommendations on a 10-fold safety margin regarding mercury contamination.
Further, according to the NOAA statement, pregnant women can protect their infants from mercury contamination in fish by not eating the following seafood until after they have delivered and are no longer breastfeeding:
- Shark or whale meat
- King mackerel
- Tuna steaks
They also say women should avoid these fish for six months before becoming pregnant.
Researchers also mentioned that selenium, which is present in ocean fish, neutralizes the effects of mercury from these foods, making the benefits of seafood much greater than the mercury risks.
The guidelines were presented at a conference sponsored by the United States, Norway, Canada and Iceland governments, and assisted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
First of all, it is important to understand that I am firmly convinced that omega-3 fats are one of the most important nutrients that we can possibly consume, and most reading this are not getting enough omega-3 fats. It is, without question, the single most important nutritional deficiency and causes profound consequences as a result.
It is obvious that the experts responsible for generating this recommendation have a similar appreciation of the amazing benefits that omega-3 fats have for our health.
Unfortunately, I believe these experts are in denial and/or do not have a full appreciation of the dangers of heavy metal and chemical contamination that has migrated into most commercially available seafood.
If you read the three-part article from the Chicago Tribune that I reported on last month, you would find that U.S. standards regarding mercury in fish are so lax they're considered to be among the weakest in the world.
In fact, swordfish bought by Tribune reporters at a local supermarket was found to exceed the safe limit for mercury by a factor of three.
So who should you believe?
I heartily disagree with the researchers in the above article who said the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks.
In a perfect world, yes, fish would be a near-perfect food -- high in protein and full of essential nutrients and fats. But our world is not perfect, and, sadly, neither is our fish supply.
I do not recommend eating any fish -- unless you have lab results in your hand that can attest to its purity.
This is especially important for pregnant women and children, as methyl mercury is particularly toxic when the nervous system and brain are developing.
As an alternative, you can get the omega-3 benefits of eating fish by taking a high-quality fish or cod liver oil daily. You can also try out the wild red salmon from Vital Choice, which is the only source I've found to be safe and contains less than .1ppm of mercury.
If you insist on eating typical, store-bought fish, however, and want to know more about the extent of your mercury exposure, I urge you, for the sake of your health and that of your family, to check out the online mercury calculator at GotMercury.org.