Many people enjoy the taste, texture, and health benefits of fresh fish, but worry about the potential mercury content in this food.
Fortunately, new research is showing that a mineral present in most seafood can combat the effects of mercury, protecting you from heavy metal toxicity.
A study from the University of Hawaii Medical School recently analyzed levels of mercury and the mineral selenium in a cohort of pregnant women.
Their findings revealed that while those who consumed no fish during pregnancy exhibited the lowest mercury levels, many women who had high rates of fish consumption also had relatively low levels of mercury in their systems – conversely, some women with low rates of fish consumption had relatively high mercury levels.(1)
The researchers concluded that, based on their findings, they could not draw a distinctive correlation between fish consumption and mercury levels.
Earlier this year, however, a different study investigated the connection between mercury and selenium in zebra fish. When adult fish were fed mercury and selenium, they ultimately had lower levels of mercury than the fish who were fed the same amount of mercury, only without selenium.(2)
The conclusion these researchers drew was that dietary selenium reduces the accumulation and enhances the elimination of mercury in fish. In other words, the most important factor to think about when eating fish is the relative amount the fish contains.
Which Fish Have A Good Selenium-To-Mercury Ratio?
According to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, the higher the selenium level in fish, the safer it is to eat – regardless of its exposure to mercury.
The organization published a handy chart showing the ratio of selenium to mercury in many commonly eaten fish. Thirteen of the fifteen fish included in the chart had a higher ratio of selenium to mercury, making them safe to eat(3).
Swordfish has an equal ratio of selenium to mercury, with the lowest selenium levels being found in sharks – all the more reason to oppose the practice of shark hunting!
Good News For Pregnant Women
These recent discoveries are good news for pregnant women or women planning on having a child; omega-3 fatty acids(DHA), which are found predominantly in fish, are essential to the neurological development of infants and children.
However, even if you don’t have a child on the way, there’s a good reason to make sure you’re getting enough in your diet.
Many people – even those who don’t eat fish – can experience mercury contamination, from everyday sources such as dental amalgams and food dyes. Even breakfast products may contain mercury, according to the EPA(4).
Sources other than fish include Brazil nuts, portobello mushrooms, and eggs(5), so even if you don’t eat fish, there’s no excuse for not getting a healthy dose of this important mineral in your diet!