A diet rich in seafood has its benefits. Seafood is an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, high quality protein, iodine and a wide range of other minerals. The problem lies in the fact that predatory fishes, the ones on the top of the food chain, accumulate mercury during the span of their lives. Under normal circumstances, the levels of mercury that we acquire from eating seafood, will be passed out through our natural bodily functions. That means it passes through urine, faeces and breast milk, as is the case with lactating mothers.
Who is most at risk:
- women of child bearing age who are pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or who are breastfeeding
- young children
The Ministry of Health Trinidad and Tobago advises that 6 ounces of seafood per week can be consumed as part of a healthy diet for people that fall into these groups.
These fishes have been found in international studies to contain high levels of mercury:
- king mackerel
- tile fish
- tuna (mercury levels would vary from species to species)
Mercury can be found in trace quantities in almost all seafood. The list above shows the fishes where it is found in highest amounts. The risk comes from eating these specific fishes in large quantities. Mercury has been known to cause brain and nervous system damage in unborn fetuses and young children in high levels.
There is always the option of eating freshwater fish where the risk of mercury exposure is much less. There are also local programmes that teach citizens how to rear tilapia at home for both private and commercial consumption. Due to the ever present problem of polluted fisheries, freshwater alternatives have become very popular in recent times.If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, breastfeeding or have a young child, just remember to consume seafood in moderation.
More info: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/
January 2017 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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