Tag Archives: mercury

Mercury in Seafood. Is it Really Unsafe?

“Making informed nutrition and fitness-related decisions can be somewhat overwhelming for those in therapy for eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, bulimarexia, binge eating disorder) and obesity. To this end, I’ve compiled a set of handouts to provide handy reference guides to both my readers and clients. You can view all my Nutrition and Fitness Handouts here. Be sure to check back frequently, as I am always adding new handouts to my list!”

We’ve all seen headlines like this in the media, warning against the dangers of the mercury content of seafood. Are headlines like this completely true? Is eating a diet rich in fish truly going to lead to mercury toxicity?

Looking exclusively at the mercury content of fish is an inaccurate measure of “the dangers” of eating fish. In order to be accurate, it is essential to look at the big picture. Are there other components that play a role in the way our bodies process mercury? Let’s investigate.

Aside from mercury, what other important element does fish contain? Selenium! The USDA has released a report of the best food sources of selenium. Out of the top 25 food sources, 16 of these were fish.

Selenium is sort of a “magnet” to mercury. When we consume mercury with selenium, the mercury seeks out the selenium and binds to it. This binding makes it impossible for the mercury to bind to anything else in our body, such as brain tissue, organ tissue etc. Dr Nicholas Ralston, a top researcher in the “Selenium-Mercury” relationship in fish and seafood explains it like this:

“Think of dietary selenium as if it were your income and dietary mercury as if it were a bill that you need to pay. Just as we all need a certain amount of money to cover living expenses such as food and rent, we all need a certain amount of selenium … Only one major study has shown negative effects from exposure to mercury from seafood, and that seafood was pilot whale meat. Pilot whale meat is unusual in that it contains more mercury than selenium. When you eat pilot whale meat, it’s like getting a bill for $400 and a check for less than $100. If that happens too much, you go bankrupt. On the other hand, if you eat ocean fish, it’s like getting a check in the mail for $500 and getting a bill for $25. The more that happens, the happier you are.”

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, released a really useful chart that shows the ratio of selenium:mercury content in the most commonly eaten types of fish. Print it out, put it on your fridge, refer to it often, eat fish!

For a printable version of this chart click here.

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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible.

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