Q: I am enclosing an article from a local newspaper warning people to avoid eating any fish ever (Thinking Twice About Tuna by Bruce Friedrich of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Palo Alto Daily News). I would like to know whether this very alarmist article has any basis in fact.


Answer :The article in question warns about the dangers of mercury and other contamination in tuna and other fish, concluding that Fish is anything but health food. While its wise to be wary of potential toxins in fish, the consensus of scientists who have examined the evidence-as opposed to taking an ethical stand, as PETA does, that animals are not to eat-is that fish is in fact one of the healthiest foods you can include in your diet. As reported in the January 2007 Healthletter, a 14-member Institute of Medicine (IOM) expert panel concluded that the rewards of eating fish outweigh the risks. Confusion may have scared people out of eating something that is beneficial for them and maybe for their offspring, according to Jose M. Ordovas, PhD, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at Tufts Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging and a member of the panel. People should not be scared about eating seafood.

Almost simultaneously, an analysis of more than 200 previous studies strongly endorsed the cardiovascular benefits of fish consumption. The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that the risks of mercury and other toxins in fish are outweighed by potential benefits of fish intake and should have little impact on choices of fish consumption. Harvards Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, co-author of the report, maintains, Seafood is likely the single most important food one can consume for good health.

No wonder, then, that the American Heart Association and the latest federal dietary guidelines both recommend eating fish twice a week.

According to the IOM findings, only women who are or who may become pregnant or who are breast-feeding, along with children up to age 12, need to limit seafood consumption because of contamination risks. This group can still consume up to 12 ounces of fish a week, while avoiding large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish or king mackerel. Others worried about contaminants should select a variety of seafood to minimize risk from any single source.

If you want to skip eating seafood for ethical reasons, thats your choice. But theres no scientific reason to eschew fish on the basis of health-indeed, just the opposite is true.


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