Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Im at the TOP of the food chain

My current meal plan features 'fish' for one meal per day and not being able to afford fresh Atlantic salmon every day, I have been enjoying FLAKE!

However, someone raised with me the issue that I may be ingesting too much mercury in my diet so I thought Id look into this...

Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and accumulates in the aquatic food chain, including fish, as methyl-mercury. This means all fish contain some methyl-mercury

The advice from State Food Authorities is to moderate fish intake relates mainly to the large fish, like shark/flake and billfish (including swordfish, broadbill and marlin). They advise that if (like me) one of your favourite fish is flake, to limit its intake and instead consider eating a variety of other types of fish.

Why the concern? Apparently, just like the fish, our bodies accumulate mercury and we store it in fat tissue, brain and bones which our systems cannot cope with. Our bodies can remove mercury but it is a slow process which sometimes requires several months. This becomes even more difficult when amounts going into the body exceed what we are excreting. The main concern is that exposure at toxic levels can result in neurological and renal damage. This causes a concern for unborn babies as their brain is developing at a rapid rate. This is why there are recommendations in place for pregnant women as the mercury consumed can be passed through the placenta to the developing baby. In Australia there have been no reported cases of mercury poisoning from seafood. There are also regulations in place to make sure that there is a limit on the mercury that can be present in fish sold.

Fish known to be high in mercury are:
Shark (flake)
Orange roughy
Southern bluefin tuna

Fish that have much lower mercury levels and are also high in Omega 3 fatty acids include:
· Mackerel;
· Silver Warehou;
· Atlantic Salmon;
· Canned Salmon & canned tuna in oil;
· Herrings and
· Sardines
Other fish with low mercury levels include:
· All prawns, lobsters and bugs;
· All squids and octopus:
· Snapper;
· Salmon and trout;
· Trevally;
· Whiting;
· Herring, Anchovy;
· Bream;
· Mullet;
· Garfish.

These fish can be eaten more frequently – two to three times per week. So considering I intend to still eat fish EVERY DAY, I suppose I'd better cut down on the flake! Apparently if mercury levels are elevated, they will return to normal fairly quickly upon presumption of a more varied diet/fish selection.

Recommendations relating to intake exist not just due to mercury levels but because overconsumption of any one food, particularly if at the exclusion of others is a great way to develop vitamin/mineral deficiencies and food intolerences. Luckily, I don't think Im at risk of this because I also eat a variety of other protein sources (eg eggs, chicken and kangaroo) and of course plenty of colourful vegies!

Source of information: NSW Food Services Authority


Raechelle said...

Yes-mercury is a big worry...and I just read recently about some actor that practices a pesco-vegetarian diet (I think that's what its' called)-where he is vegetarian but still eats fish..anyway....he had become ill from too much mercury-so obviously he's backing off the fish now.

Take care!

Michelle said...

I've been meaning to recommend this book to you. I read it over Xmas.
Goes into alarming detail about the mercury thing and covers all sorts of things related to nutrition and food marketing.

Stephanie Davis said...

Yes Raechelle it seems that any sort of diet that restricts certain food/food groups can be detrimental long term hey.. i can't imagine trying to compete as a vegetarian!!

Cool Michelle, thanks! I try not to get paranoid about too many things but it is good to be aware...

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