Eating Fish: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Moderate fish consumption reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease but increases mercury levels in the brain— according to a study of nearly 1,000 people led by Martha Morris from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Consumption of fish oil supplements was not related to improved brain function. Mercury is a highly toxic pollutant that enters the environment from coal-using electrical plants, waste incinerators and byproducts of various manufactured goods. Mercury accumulates in several species of large fish, such as tuna, shark and swordfish. Mercury is particularly toxic to children and pregnant women. It is linked to neurological abnormalities, damage to brain centers controlling movement, seizures and developmental and mental retardation. It also impairs the reproductive system in men, and decreases blood testosterone and sperm production. Mercury poisoning is a major public health issue in populations that eat a lot of fish, such as the Inuits in Northern Canada. High mercury levels can injure the kidneys, brain and lungs. Mercury accumulates in large fish such as tuna, so eating large quantities can cause health problems. (Journal American Medical Association, 315: 489-497, 2016)

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