The never-ending fish dilemmas
Mal Nesheim and I have an editorial in a recent issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Advice for fish consumption: challenging dilemmas.”
We commented on a research article evaluating blood mercury levels in adults eating seafood.
In it, we point out that
the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise Americans to consume 8 ounces (227 g) of seafood per week to reach an average intake of 250 mg/d of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
This recommendation represents a substantial increase over current consumption amounts of ∼3.5 oz/wk. It is based on “moderate, consistent evidence” that the health benefits of increased seafood consumption outweigh the risks associated with methylmercury, a toxic contaminant of large predatory food fish (tilefish, shark, swordfish, king mackerel) and, to a lesser extent, albacore (white) tuna.
To avoid this toxin, the guidelines advise eating seafood typically found to be low in methylmercury, such as salmon, anchovies, sardines, and trout.
Such advice, however, leads to at least 3 dilemmas. Eating more fish might raise methylmercury intake above safe amounts. Pressures to consume more fish might place impossible demands on an already threatened seafood supply. And the obvious solution—fish farming—raises concerns about what farmed fish are fed and how farmed fish affects the environment.
We urge the 2015 Dietary Guidelines committee to take all this into consideration when making recommendations about fish consumption: “We hope that its advice for seafood consumption will help a confused public resolve some of these dilemmas and make wise seafood choices.”
Wise seafood choices may be an oxymoron, alas.