How the great fish fiasco is endangering your health...?
There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but the number of fish you can safely eat these days is distressingly small——and it’s decreasing all the time.
The problem is contamination. Specifically, mercury contamination as more fish test positive for higher levels than ever before.
This is incredibly bad news considering that fish aren’t just delicious. They’re also the best natural source of the omega-3 fatty acids needed by your brain, heart, and more.
And now, new research shows how the mercury in fish isn’t just cancelling out the benefits of those omega-3s. It’s actually causing more damage than those fatty acids can ever repair.
More than 1,600 Swedish and Finnish men provided hair samples to test their mercury levels and blood samples to check their omega-3s. To the surprise of no one, men with the highest mercury levels had the highest risk of heart problems, especially when their omega-3s were low.
Meanwhile, men with the lowest mercury levels and highest omega-3 levels had the lowest risk of heart problems.
Again, no surprise. 2 + 2 = 4.
The real warning here is in men who had high mercury and high omega-3 levels, because the “good” didn’t always cancel out the “bad.” The higher the mercury, the less protection they got from their omega-3s.
Clearly, it’s a case where you DON’T want to take the bad with the good.
But since they both come from the same source——fish——it’s getting harder than ever to get your main dish of fats without a side of poison.
Harder, but not impossible if you follow my...
Five Simple Steps to Safe Omega-3 Consumption
1) Be a Bottom Feeder: Remember the old cartoons on the food chain that showed a tiny fish being eaten by a bigger fish, which is in turn eaten by a bigger one, which is itself eaten by a bigger fish, etc., etc.? Well, it’s true——and since mercury accumulates, the fish at the top of the food chain end up ingesting everything that built up in all the fish that were eaten along the way. So, avoid the big predators such as shark, king mackerel, Chilean sea bass, marlin, swordfish, and——sadly——tuna. Sorry, Charlie.
2) Go Deep: The deeper the waters, the better the odds your fish won’t contain mercury. This isn’t always true, but a tuna caught in deeper waters will often contain far less of the heavy metal than tuna caught in shallower waters. If you have to have tuna, you want to make sure it’s a deep-ocean fish.
3) Forget the Farm: Farmed fish are never from deep waters, so make sure they’re permanently off the menu in your home——and not just because of the higher mercury content. Farmed fish can also contain PCBs and other chemical contaminants as well as drugs such as antibiotics (yes, they’re even drugging the fish these days). In addition, farmed fish just aren’t as healthy as wild-caught. Farmed salmon may contain more fat than wild-caught salmon, for example, but they actually have LOWER levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
4) Kick the Can: Canned foods are great to have on hand for emergencies, but unless the flood waters are rising, bombs are falling, or zombies are on the march, don’t ever open them up. All the reasons to avoid canned foods would fill another article, so let’s just stick to mercury for today——and a 2010 study that found unsafe levels of mercury in more than half of 300 cans of tuna tested.
5) Don’t Forget the Other Omega-3s: Fish might be the best natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, but they’re not the only ones. You can also get them from grass-fed beef, eggs from free-range chickens, and walnuts. Some people will tell you to get omega-3 fatty acids from soy; this is a sure sign to ignore anything else they have to say.
Finally, with dwindling safe food sources of these fatty acids, a quality omega-3 supplement is positively essential at this point.
Of course, low-quality supplements can contain all the mercury of the fish they were made from, so don’t buy your omega-3s from the local dollar store. Stick to purified omega-3 supplements certified to by free of mercury from a manufacturer you trust.