Mercury and Tuna

Tin of TunaMy Grandmother eliminated spinach from her diet 10 years ago and no amount of cajoling could convince her to add it back. That was after she heard something on the radio that pointed out that consumption of spinach can prevent the absorption of calcium. Now this is correct, but when digested in a vacuum; as it was, this information created a knee-jerk reaction to eliminate spinach for fear of osteoporosis.

Information taken in a vacuum is dangerous. Nutrient synergies are finely tuned to provide many benefits; any interaction or reaction taken on its own is simply the wrong approach to nutrition; in my humble opinion. Until the focus for health and nutrition shifts to balance and variety; people like my Gram will stumble across fractured information and act on it alone.

The reality is vitamins and minerals and other nutrients we ingest have their own unique methods of interacting. This is to our benefit. A varied and balanced diet will never create a radical insufficiency of calcium. I am assuming the study simply pointed out that spinach; although high in calcium is also high in oxalic acid, which interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. This would not cause you to loose calcium, only the calcium eaten with the spinach at that meal.

From Spinach to Fish

Is it safe to consume Tuna on a regular basis? Is there too much Mercury in it? There is no doubt in my mind that much of the the food we eat is sick. Our planet is sick. I suppose the question is: how do we know which foods are the least sick and how do we balance the pro’s vs. the con’s? One way is to keep up with scientific studies, but a word of caution: find one study to prove A=B and you will surely fine another that A=C or even that the sum of A is irrelevant all together!

Many studies have found that Tuna is contaminated with unacceptable levels of mercury. As responsible adults we should keep such studies in mind especially if you are a pregnant woman or prepairing food for a child. However, keep in mind a a variety of facts and sources of information when trying to decide weather or not to eliminate an item from your diet. Haste makes waste and there is always more information to consider. Weigh the benefits vs. the risks.

There is a difference between fad diets and serious environmental warnings about the foods we eat, but both have strong influences on food choices. It can be difficult to know how to react. Sometimes it can seem like nothing is safe, every study points an evil finger at a sorry vegetable or animal product, each diet fad vilifies a food or even whole food group. My point is, keep a healthy perspective. Common sense will often guide you to the right decisions for your health.

I still feel the benefits os fish and seafood in your diet outweigh the risks. Common sense also suggests that we get mad as hell and do something about the state of our planet!

Some things to check out:

Healthy Eating—Keeping Fish on the Menu

If you’re like me, you like fish. Some of my favorite dishes are pasta with some sort of fish – linguini with clam sauce, shrimp with feta cheese over rigatoni, grilled salmon with a soy sauce/garlic/ginger sauce, plain old tunafish sandwiches. These and similar dishes are quick, easy to make, and don’t just taste good – they’re high in protein, which can help manage our hunger and keep us satisfied. Plus, they tend to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for our hearts (and maybe other things, too).

Tuna Industry & EPA Make Rotten Bedfellows

Heavy industry accounts for 40% of the mercury-dumping in the US. The mercury, of course, washes into streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Small fish consume it. Larger fish consume the smaller fish, and humans consume the larger fish. Matthew Davis ate his “brain food” of tinned tuna each day for lunch. After getting worse at playing catch, Davis’ parents noticed that he was having problems in school, and his fingers were disturbingly curled. Tests showed Matthew’s blood was laced with mercury in amounts nearly double what the Environmental Protection Agency says is the safe level. Matthew had mercury poisoning, his doctors said.

Low-mercury choices for fish a challenge

For most men and postmenopausal women, mercury concern plummets and the main message is to eat a variety of fish and more of it, the heart association says.

“If they’re eating the same fish day after day, that’s probably not wise,” said Harris, a researcher at the Mid-America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo. “It’s probably good to mix it up.”

Mercury Calculator from the Environmental Working Group’s website to calculate how much tuna you can safely consume per week, according to your body weight.

Mercury in Fish: Toxic Risk on Your Plate

The fishing industry also has failed consumers. The newspaper’s investigation found that U.S. tuna companies often package and sell a high-mercury tuna species as canned light tuna–a product the government specifically recommends as a low-mercury choice.

Government Should Warn About Mercury in Fish, Says CSPI

Mercury is an environmental pollutant that bioaccumulates in large ocean-dwelling fish, such as swordfish, shark, some types of tuna and king mackerel. Eating seafood is the leading cause of exposure to methylmercury, a reproductive toxin that can cause neurological damage to the developing fetus and young children.

Austrailian Consumers Choice Association: Mercury in tuna

a recent study that focussed on the Seychelles, where fish is a major component of the diet, found no evidence that children’s brain development was hindered by exposure to mercury. And other recent research suggests that the mercury is in a form that makes it a lot less likely to be toxic than scientists previously thought.

Too much mercury in tuna, swordfish: Health Canada

Canned tuna is not affected because younger fish are used in the product and have not accumulated higher levels of mercury in their bodies.

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