Benefits of Fish-Heavy Diet Outweigh Risks

by Chris Curley on April 9, 2012

Grilled Gulf swordfish

The many, well-documented health benefits of eating fish are worth exposure to small amounts of mercury or other contaminants, the Washington Post reported April 2.

Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency say that salmon — the healthiest of fatty fishes — has low mercury content and is even safe for pregnant women to eat.

Swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel have the highest levels of mercury, so eat these fish only infrequently, if at all, the agencies advise.

The Environmental Defense Fund recommends that adults eat no more than one serving per month of flounder, perch, tuna, salmon, or blackfish because they contain contaminants including mercury, PCBs and dioxins.

But those studies only don’t take into account the health benefits of these same fish, researchers say. “My research suggests that people may be overly focused on the negative aspects and not focused on benefits,” says Jay Shimshack, Ph.D., of Tulane University in New Orleans.

The bulk of research shows that most fish is extremely healthy, especially those with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to numerous health benefits including lower levels of depression and anxiety, protection against Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments, lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, and even reduced likelihood of vision loss in old age.

(Photo © ralph and jenny via Flickr)