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Is That Healthy Fish Really So Healthful?


ELLE Magazine's April issue explores how the most health-conscious eaters may be exposing themselves to dangerous levels of mercury. For years fish has been a dietary staple among weight-watchers and the most health-conscious consumers. Many believe that the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and tuna can prevent heart disease and wrinkles as well as make their brains both brainier and less susceptible to depression.

However, Dr. Jane Hightower, [an Internal medicine specialist] reports in ELLE's April issue, that a dangerous level of mercury is found in some very common types of fish: swordfish, shark, ahi, canned tuna. She discusses the three-year study that led to her concluding that too much of the wrong kind of fish can give you a nasty case of mercury poisoning.

Hightower reports the symptoms of mercury poisoning to include fatigue, headaches, hair loss, and neurological problems, ranging from numbness, muscle weakness, altered vision and hearing, slurred speech, to convulsions and dementia.

Hightower's claim has touched off controversy from nationwide, pitting federal agencies and fishing industry against environmentalists and health enthusiasts. 'Virtually all fish contain traces of methyl mercury' Hightower reveals. 'In lakes and rivers, where pollution is often quite concentrated, even small fish can have large amounts.' 'In oceans, it's the big predatory species at the top of the food chain that ends up with

the most mercury; these fish may feast for years on smaller fish before becoming fillets themselves. Swordfish, which may be among the largest sea creatures regularly consumed by humans, may accumulate several million times the amount of mercury found in the surrounding water, according to the EPA.'
Some healthy hints from Dr. Hightower:

* Eat more salmon - the fish highest in omega-3 - - like salmon and

sardines, contain very low levels of mercury.

* Limit fish if you are pregnant [or trying]. Eat no more than 12-ounces a week, and avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish.

* Go for variety - eat different kinds of fish.

* Think small - little fish tend to be lower in mercury. Eating smaller portions also helps.

* Don't be afraid - occasionally bingeing on sushi or eating

swordfish all week on vacation won't hurt you.



Source: ELLE
Web site: http://elle.com/
Mar 14, 2003 09:23 ET

 

by Margot B