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FDA Tells Pregnant Women it's OK to Consume Mercury!

January 03, 2009 | 30,459 views
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fish, mercury, FDA, pregnant, nursing, toxicity, sushi, jeremy pivenThe U.S. FDA is urging the government to amend its advisory that women and children should limit how much fish they eat. They argue that the benefits of seafood outweigh the health risks and that most people should eat more fish, even if it contains mercury.

However, the FDA's recommendations have alarmed scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, who in internal memos criticized them as "scientifically flawed and inadequate" and said they fell short of the "scientific rigor routinely demonstrated by the EPA."

The FDA sent its draft report as part of an effort to update the existing health advisory. The report argued that nutrients in fish, including omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and other minerals could boost a child's IQ by three points.

The FDA and the EPA both play a role in protecting the public from mercury contamination. The EPA investigates and regulates mercury and other contaminants in recreationally caught fish, while the FDA regulates mercury in seafood sold in markets and restaurants.

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The FDA is hard at work again, protecting the health and welfare of big businesses that provide its funding.

Four years ago, the EPA and FDA issued a joint advisory warning women of childbearing age, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children to stop eating swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel, and to limit their consumption of other mercury-contaminated fish to a maximum of 12 ounces per week.

Now the FDA is trying to backpedal against a raging river, stating the benefits of eating more than 12 ounces a week of fatty fish like tuna outweigh the health hazards of mercury.

Folks, don’t believe this nonsense for even one second.

There are plenty of studies showing that mercury contamination from fish consumption constitutes a health hazard for mothers and their babies, such as the 2007 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, showing fish consumption is positively associated with premature delivery.  

There are also plenty of real-life examples of people who suffered serious health problems from eating too much fish. Actor Jeremy Piven springs to mind, as he abruptly ended his Broadway run last week due to mercury poisoning from his frequent sushi habit. 

But how much is too much?

GotMercury.org can help you answer that question with their handy mercury calculator.

For example, if a woman weighing 145 pounds ate 12 ounces (about 2 fillets) of yellowfin tuna per week, her weekly mercury intake would be 240 percent over the current EPA “safe” limit!

Multiply that over the course of a year, and you surely will not be looking at a health benefit from omega-3, but rather a health disaster from mercury poisoning.

In response to the FDA’s plan to rescind the mercury in fish advisories for women and children, the Mercury Policy Project released an expanded case study, documenting 23 people who got sick from eating too much mercury-laden fish.

"Mercury levels in swordfish and tuna sold in the U. S. are sky-high," says Teri Shore, Program Director for the GotMercury Project of Turtle Island Restoration Network in Forest Knolls, CA.

"And now the government and tuna companies want to keep mothers and children completely in the dark about it."

Dr. Jane Hightower, M.D. of San Francisco has even chronicled the seafood industry's interference in public health policy in her book Diagnosis: Mercury: Money, Politics and Poison.

"We've known for years that mercury is toxic to the brain and other organs in varying amounts depending on the individual's status. For FDA to suddenly change the equation to say that benefits outweigh risks is like once again declaring the earth is flat after discovering it was round.

"Patients in my private medical practice, as well as at other doctor's offices around the country, have been diagnosed with mercury toxicity from eating too much fish. Ignoring the presence of a known neurotoxin in one's diet is simply asking for trouble," says Dr. Hightower.

There is no doubt in my mind that the benefits you get from eating fish and seafood – especially while pregnant – do NOT outweigh the risk of mercury toxicity to yourself or your developing child.  Mercury is a real toxin and brain poison that can and will cause serious damage to your central nervous system.

Sorting Through the Benefits and Risks of Fish

First of all, animal-based omega-3 fats are absolutely vital for the complete development of your baby’s brain during pregnancy and the first two years of life. Of that there’s no doubt, and the FDA are correct in their assertion on that point.

Being deficient in omega-3 has also been shown to increase your risk of premature delivery. BUT, as the study in Environmental Health Perspectives shows, so does being exposed to mercury from fish consumption…

There is really no reason to argue for higher fish consumption, or urge people to choose between two evils. Why?

Because there are SAFE ALTERNATIVES to fish!

Why expose yourself to toxic heavy metals when you can get the goodness of omega-3 from safe, clean sources, other than fish and seafood?

I’m talking about krill oil and fish oil, of course.

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 your health. Unfortunately, I believe these experts are in denial and do not have a full appreciation of the serious dangers of heavy metal and chemical contamination, which has migrated into most commercially available seafood.

Additionally, newer research suggests that optimizing your vitamin D levels into therapeutic ranges will upregulate intracellular glutathione production and help detoxify mercury. So make sure you get your vitamin D blood levels checked!

Why You Should NOT Eat Fish

The problem with high fish consumption is that most of your commercially available fish are highly contaminated with mercury, which can cause as much brain damage as omega-3 can bring health benefits.

An alarming 40 tons of mercury are released into the United States alone every year due to burning coal to generate electricity. Mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants moves through the air, is deposited in water, and finds its way into fish, accumulating especially in fish that are higher up the food chain.

Fish like tuna, sea bass, marlin, and halibut show some of the worst contamination, but dozens of species and thousands of water bodies have been seriously polluted.

As a result, if you eat a lot of fish during pregnancy, or even as little as a single serving of a highly contaminated fish, you can expose your developing child to excessive levels of mercury. The toxic metal can cross through your placenta to harm your child’s rapidly developing nervous system, including your baby’s brain.

Some fish are more problematic than others. These are some of the ones you should definitely avoid if you are pregnant or nursing: 

Tuna steaks

Canned tuna

Sea bass

Oysters (Gulf of Mexico)

Marlin

Halibut

Pike

Walleye

White croaker

Largemouth bass

Shark

Swordfish

For a more comprehensive report on fish recommendations and dangers, please review my previous report on this topic.

In a perfect world, 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. Therefore, I do not recommend eating any fish -- unless you have lab results in your hand that can attest to its purity.

Safe Alternatives to Fish

I believe supplementing with fish oil and krill oil is a safe and effective way to get all the health benefits of omega-3, without any of the risks of mercury.

Eating smaller fish, like sardines, is also an option, as they are far less likely to be contaminated.

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.


[+] Sources and References

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Food Democracy Now
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Center for Nutrtion Advocacy
Cornucopia Institute
Vitamin D Council
GrassrootsHealth - Vitamin D*action
Alliance for Natural Health USA
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation
The Rabies Challenge Fund
Cropped Catis Mexico