ARE FISH SAFE TO EAT?1264Susan Rand
No doubt your mother told you to eat fish – “It’s good for you.” But is that true? Considering that according to EPA, 1/3 of all US rivers are too polluted for swimming or fishing, can fish be safe to eat?
WHY EAT FISH ANYWAY?
Fish and shellfish can be very good for you. They offer high-quality protein and other nutrients, are low in saturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are poly-unsaturated fatty acids, which can lower blood triglycerides and raise level of HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Triglycerides are principal form of fat found in foods. They are processed by liver. Excess fat consumed in diet is converted in liver into triglycerides for storage as fat. High triglycerides are associated with heart disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower triglycerides, and may also help prevent blood clotting. Other studies indicate that Omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent hypertension (high blood pressure). They also aid in reducing risk of cancer (especially breast cancer), vision problems, and arthritis. They also help maintain circulatory system.
The American Heart Association recommends we consume a variety of fish and shellfish, 2-3 servings a week, to help prevent heart disease. A recent study of 11,000 heart attack survivors found that participants who took a 1,000 mg fish oil supplement daily – a 3-1/3 oz serving of broiled salmon – lowered their risk of dying of heart disease within three years, compared with group which received no fish oil. BUT ARE FISH SAFE TO EAT? As reported in Montana Kaimin newsletter for May 9, 2005, “Chile is asking world what color they would like their farmed salmon. Farmed salmon is typically a white color in Chile, due to lack of nutrients and algae that colors [sic] salmon flesh raised in north. Why should Americans care? Because 60% of United States’ salmon is coming [sic] from Chile.” Besides having a sickly color, almost all fish and shellfish contain mercury - how much depends on type consumed. Fish also may contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), toxins banned in 1976 but still present in environment. PCBs are harmful to various systems of body, including immune and nervous systems. Studies conducted by Environmental Protection Agency, high PCB levels in mothers were associated with low birth weight and learning disabilities. A study by University of Albany revealed that Washington farmed salmon contained as much PCBs as those from Chile. The university stated that results of this study indicated that eating more than one 8 oz. serving of salmon could deliver an unsafe level of PCBs. Since farmed salmon eat pellets made from their dead relatives, PCBs are endlessly recycled. And while mercury disappears from body after a time, PCBs remain indefinitely, stored in body fat. THAT’S ALARMING - IS ANY FISH SAFE TO EAT?
The FDA has this to say about fish in diet: Avoid following: Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish – high levels of mercury Use in moderation (no more than 12 oz. per week): •Canned light tuna* •Shrimp •Crab •Cod •Scallops •Clams •Canned salmon •Pollock •Catfish *Albacore white tuna contains more mercury. No more than 6 oz. per week is recommended. Contamination also varies from state to state. You can check your state’s position here: http://epa.gov/waterscience/fish/states.htm. ARE WILD FISH SAFER THAN FARMED FISH?
Confusion reigns over this question. Logic would tell you that farmed fish would be safer, since they are raised under controlled conditions. However, farmed fish are often crowded, prone to disease (and fed antibiotics) and can escape and infect wild fish. Even they are high in mercury. Also, farmed fish are fed “pellets” – ground-up fish. And how healthy are fish that are ground into pellets? A good question.