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Calculated, Risk Is Worth Benefit of Eating Fish



 
 
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  #1  
Old June 20th 05, 04:58 PM
Roman Bystrianyk
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Default Calculated, Risk Is Worth Benefit of Eating Fish

Marla Cone, "Calculated, Risk Is Worth Benefit of Eating Fish", Los
Angeles Times, June 20, 2005,
Link:
http://www.latimes.com/features/heal...-health-womens

Because fish can be healthful as well as hazardous, medical experts
have grappled for years with what advice to give people, particularly
pregnant women, about how much is safe to eat.

A new study by Harvard University doctors concludes that pregnant women
can boost their baby's intelligence by eating fish a couple of times a
week, but only if they avoid varieties with large concentrations of
mercury.

Fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help young brains develop
and seem to protect against heart disease. But it also is tainted by
mercury, a potent neurotoxin that interferes with the building of
brains.

The new study of 135 Boston-area babies is considered important because
it quantifies and compares the risks and benefits of a fish diet.

The researchers concluded that pregnant women should eat fish because
their babies are likely to score higher on intelligence tests. But they
also reported that the benefits of the nutrients disappear and the
babies' intelligence scores drop substantially if the fish contains
high levels of mercury.

Nearly all fish contains traces of mercury, but large marine species
such as swordfish, shark and albacore tuna accumulate the highest
levels.

About 630,000 babies a year are born with mercury exposure that could
reduce their mental abilities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
estimates.

Mercury can harm adults - hampering memories, causing hair to fall
out and perhaps raising the risk of heart disease - but fetuses are
considered the most vulnerable because neurological effects have been
found at low levels.

Dr. Philippe Grandjean, an environmental epidemiologist at the
University of Southern Denmark and Harvard University who has studied
the effects of mercury on children for 20 years, said the new findings
added to the mounting evidence that women should eat fish but follow
warnings to limit the types and amounts they consume.

Previously, Grandjean and others presented similar findings for
school-age children, reporting that their mental skills, particularly
memory, vocabulary and attention, were reduced if they had been exposed
in the womb to relatively low levels of mercury.

Grandjean, who was not involved in the latest study, said infant
intelligence was highly variable so it was "surprising that the authors
were able to detect both a positive effect of fish intake and an
adverse effect of mercury. That would suggest that these effects [on
the infants] are quite strong."

The women in the study ate fish on average once a week during the
second trimester of their pregnancy. The highest intelligence scores
were among the babies whose mothers had consumed more than two helpings
of fish per week but whose mercury levels remained under 1.2 parts per
million, according to the report published online last month in the
journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

For each additional weekly serving of fish, the babies' intelligence
scores increased by 4 points, or an average of almost 7%. But for every
increase of 1 part per million of mercury, the babies' intelligence
scores dropped by 7.5 points, or 12.5%. A woman could raise her mercury
level by 1 ppm if she ate an average-sized serving of swordfish once a
week, said Dr. Emily Oken of Harvard Medical School, the study's lead
researcher.

"The range of fish intake in our study was from zero to 5.5 servings
per week, so these were not women who were eating fish daily or
multiple times a day," said Oken, who specializes in pregnancy and
nutrition.

The study does not provide details about which fish or how much fish
pregnant women should eat. But its findings support the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration's guidelines, issued in 2004, which recommend that
pregnant and nursing women and those who might become pregnant eat up
to two meals, or 12 ounces, of fish a week and that they avoid certain
types of fish entirely. Young children are advised to follow the same
guidelines because their brains are still developing.

The FDA entirely rules out swordfish and shark as well as king mackerel
and tilefish, found on the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico, for
pregnant and nursing women and young children. Some white and albacore
tuna, canned and fresh, also have high mercury levels. Generally, the
darker the fish meat, the higher the mercury content.

Sardines, herring, canned light tuna, cod, haddock, tilapia, sea bass
and shrimp are considered good, low-mercury choices. Small fatty fishes
such as sardines and herring are especially beneficial to babies
because they contain a lot of fatty acids.

Salmon is generally low in mercury and high in fatty acids, but some
farmed salmon contains high concentrations of other contaminants, PCBs,
which are also risky for babies.

In California, grocery stores and restaurants selling fish are required
to post mercury warnings for women and young children. The EPA also has
issued localized advisories for some species caught by recreational
fishermen, particularly in the Great Lakes and the San Francisco Bay.

Despite the warnings, many pregnant women - and their doctors - are
confused.

"Based on personal experience with colleagues, it seems to me that many
doctors are as confused about this issue as patients are," said Oken,
who practices medicine at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Boston.

Some women say their obstetricians do not tell them about the FDA
guidelines or give them specific advice about fish. Many are unaware
they should avoid swordfish and limit tuna and other fish. Others stop
eating all fish during pregnancy, which means their babies do not get
its brain-enhancing effects.

"Women may indiscriminately reduce fish consumption in response to
concerns about mercury exposure, perhaps substituting fish with other
less healthful foods," the Harvard researchers said in their report. In
addition to fatty acids, fish is high in protein, iron, vitamin E,
selenium and other nutrients.

Scientists disagree on how much mercury is safe. The EPA based its
conclusions on studies of about 1,700 first-graders on the Faroe
Islands, in the North Atlantic. However, some scientists debate the
risks of fish because whale was the source of the mercury there and
similar tests on children in the island nation of Seychelles found no
effects related to fish.

In tests designed by neuropsychologists to study early signs of
intelligence and memory, the Boston-area babies were shown photographs
of new faces and ones they had been shown before, and the researchers
recorded how much time they spent studying each one. Babies score
higher on the test if they move quickly from the familiar face,
indicating recognition, to exploring the new face.

Dr. Jane Hightower, a San Francisco internist who has detected
excessive mercury levels in many of her patients, particularly those
who eat swordfish, said consumers might have to resort to omega-3
supplements to get the benefits of fish without the risks.

"The fact is we need good protein sources that are beneficial and low
in saturated fat and without contaminants," Hightower said. "If the
polluting industries, the fishing industry, government officials and
our political representatives cannot resolve this mercury problem in
our air, water and fish, the supplement industry will be left to
resolve it for the consumer."

Mercury is a natural element found in the Earth's crust, but when
released into the air through smokestacks, it spreads globally and
accumulates in tissues of animals, particularly fish. Coal-fired power
plants, largely in Asia, are the largest sources of man-made mercury
emissions.

The FDA's recommendations on fish consumption are available at
http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/dms/admehg3.html

  #2  
Old June 20th 05, 07:40 PM
[email protected]
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Default


Roman,

Thanks for posting this article. It is not new news, but it is
important news, and bears repeating. I am just snipping a few
comments to emphasize.


In misc.kids.pregnancy Roman Bystrianyk wrote:
: Marla Cone, "Calculated, Risk Is Worth Benefit of Eating Fish", Los
: Angeles Times, June 20, 2005,
: Link:
: http://www.latimes.com/features/heal...-health-womens

: Fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help young brains develop
: and seem to protect against heart disease. But it also is tainted by
: mercury, a potent neurotoxin that interferes with the building of
: brains.

This the important pair of benefits and risks we have to balance.

: The researchers concluded that pregnant women should eat fish because
: their babies are likely to score higher on intelligence tests. But they
: also reported that the benefits of the nutrients disappear and the
: babies' intelligence scores drop substantially if the fish contains
: high levels of mercury.

Yes. However, eating fish is not the only way to get the omega-3
fatty acids pregnant women need for thier babies development. Perhaps
it would also be useful to point out the alternatives. They can take
DHA supplements from either seaweed or flaxseed. (where do you think
the fish get their omega-3's? seaweed, of course!)

: The FDA entirely rules out swordfish and shark as well as king mackerel
: and tilefish, found on the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico, for
: pregnant and nursing women and young children. Some white and albacore
: tuna, canned and fresh, also have high mercury levels. Generally, the
: darker the fish meat, the higher the mercury content.

This is the first important thing people need to know. What fishes
not to eat. However, I think there is another message here. How did
all this mercury get into these fish anyway. From industrial pollution,
of course. Just maybe this is a clarion call to stop this industrial
discharge and clean up our oceans. Todd, here is another great issue
for a dedicated activist to take on for the benefits of the babies of
the world!

: Sardines, herring, canned light tuna, cod, haddock, tilapia, sea bass
: and shrimp are considered good, low-mercury choices. Small fatty fishes
: such as sardines and herring are especially beneficial to babies
: because they contain a lot of fatty acids.

Gread advice for those who want to know what is safe in how much quantity.

: Salmon is generally low in mercury and high in fatty acids, but some
: farmed salmon contains high concentrations of other contaminants, PCBs,
: which are also risky for babies.

I don't think this is just a salmon problem. I think it is a fish
farming problem. This problem is the same "industrial farming"
techniques that plagues the beef and poultry industries. Maybe we
need to develop guildelines for "Certified Organic Fish Farming".
Until then I will only eat wild caught fish!

: The FDA's recommendations on fish consumption are available at
: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/dms/admehg3.html

There are a lot of messages in this article, not only about what to
eat or avoid in order remain healthy and to make sure our children
remain health. There is a strong message about what happens when
we foul our own food supply, and we should take that to heart enough
that we do something to clean it up!

Larry
  #3  
Old June 21st 05, 08:06 PM
Todd Gastaldo
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Larry McMahan exclaimed regarding the issue of industrial pollution/mercury
in tuna, etc.:

Todd, here is another great issue
for a dedicated activist to take on for the benefits of the babies of
the world!


Sorry Charlie.

It's tempting though. I have been looking around for another cause. I heard
recently that obstetricians will stop closing birth canals by Friday - LOL!

Todd

  #4  
Old June 23rd 05, 06:44 PM
[email protected]
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Default

I'll put it on my calendar.

Larry

In misc.kids.pregnancy Todd Gastaldo wrote:

: Larry McMahan exclaimed regarding the issue of industrial pollution/mercury
: in tuna, etc.:

: Todd, here is another great issue
: for a dedicated activist to take on for the benefits of the babies of
: the world!

: Sorry Charlie.

: It's tempting though. I have been looking around for another cause. I heard
: recently that obstetricians will stop closing birth canals by Friday - LOL!

: Todd

  #6  
Old June 24th 05, 06:10 AM
[email protected]
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Default

I believe that the most sensible thing to do in such circumstances is
to take supplements.

P-A

  #7  
Old June 24th 05, 06:49 PM
[email protected]
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Default

In misc.kids.pregnancy Todd Gastaldo wrote:
: I think you missed my LOL - or does responding to an LOL mean no smilie is
: necessary? : )

Oh! I thought you were serious, and they were going to stop on Friday.
Do you mean they are not??!?

In that case, I don't thing a smiley is the appropriate emoticon.

Larry
 




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