Tuna is an affordable and nutritious lunch choice in America; packed full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids for optimal health, but high mercury levels pose potential threats for pregnant mothers and small children.
Mercury enters the ocean via coal-burning power plants as methylmercury, then accumulates in marine animals when small fish consume larger ones; eventually reaching us via our diets.
It’s a natural element
Mercury can be found in every ocean fish and seafood consumed worldwide, as well as to some degree in most other foods. Mercury enters marine environments as toxic methylmercury produced by bacteria living in water bodies, where it then gets absorbed by phytoplankton and zooplankton that feed smaller species; when consumed by larger ones, their body stores accumulate it further along their food chain resulting in bioaccumulation; thus larger predators typically possessing higher levels than smaller ones.
Tuna may not contain the highest mercury concentration, but it remains one of the most consumed fish species. Tuna often makes up their sole seafood intake among children and adults of all ages, as well as pregnant women – which poses unique mercury exposure risks because it could damage unborn fetuses’ brain and nervous systems. Even low exposure amounts may cause symptoms including prickly sensations, difficulty with speech production and fine motor coordination issues.
One way to reduce mercury exposure is through eating more seafood with lower mercury content, like salmon and shrimp. They contain omega-3 fatty acids which support brain development as well as reduce heart disease risk.
Tuna contains most of its mercury naturally rather than through industrial pollution, since the fish consume high seas waters rather than rivers or inland lakes that could contain pollutants. Still, humans are responsible for some mercury pollution in oceans due to burning fossil fuels; many ocean fish consume these pollutants and so some have higher mercury concentrations; nonetheless most types contain only trace amounts; for children under five, the EPA suggests eating two six-ounce cans of light tuna per week and four ounces of albacore tuna weekly for optimal health benefits.
It’s a byproduct of industrial pollution
Mercury is an extremely toxic metal that accumulates in fish bodies due to industrial pollution, including burning fossil fuels such as coal. As part of this process, mercury gaseous emissions enter the atmosphere as pollution particles; when these fuels burnt end up in the ocean. Once in there, elemental mercury methylates into methylmercury which acts as a powerful neurotoxin capable of damaging brain and nervous systems as well as building up in larger predators such as tuna.
Methylmercury can cause various side effects, from itching and the sensation that insects are crawling under one’s skin to high blood pressure and heart disease risk. Furthermore, it poses significant harm to pregnant women and children aged under two years of age.
The amount of mercury an individual is safe to consume depends on their bodyweight and frequency of fish consumption. According to FDA recommendations, pregnant women and young children should avoid eating fish high in mercury such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel tilefish or any other fish with high mercury concentrations; instead they should choose seafood such as salmon or shrimp which has lower mercury levels.
Researchers from the University of California conducted a recent study which revealed that many college students are eating too much tuna. Seven percent of students surveyed reported eating more than 20 tuna meals every week; tests on some revealed high mercury levels; this high intake could be explained by dining halls’ offering tuna on their menus frequently.
Researchers did not pinpoint any particular factors as causes for students’ high mercury levels, but suggested it could be caused by both environmental and behavioral causes. They further suggested that colleges and other institutions educate students on the risks of overconsuming tuna as well as promote other healthier options for eating tuna.
Tuna is an excellent source of protein and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Eating it regularly may reduce cardiovascular disease risks while simultaneously supporting brain health. But for optimal safety it’s essential to select varieties with lower mercury levels – our research team suggests canned tuna as it contains lower mercury levels than raw varieties; and recommends restricting tuna consumption to three 150-gram servings weekly for maximum safety.
It’s a food source
Mercury is an extremely toxic metal found in fish that accumulates to create serious brain damage, health problems and mental impairments, particularly among children and pregnant women whose brains and nervous systems are still developing. Omega-3 rich fish can help mitigate its harmful effects; however those consuming large species like tuna may accumulate harmful levels of mercury over time.
Mercury pollution contaminates the ocean food chain from phytoplankton to large fish that feed on small ones, ultimately being consumed by bigger ones which in turn consume smaller ones and absorb mercury themselves through eating smaller fish that had consumed phytoplankton; as each step in their food chain progresses they take in more and more mercury that accumulates within their tissues over time.
Accumulated mercury can be highly harmful to the brain, kidneys, heart and lungs of young children and fetuses – with cognitive issues and developmental delays becoming especially evident as soon as birth occurs. Furthermore, mercury exposure has also been linked to depression, heart disease and nerve damage.
Mercury concentration in fish varies greatly by geographic region and fish type caught, for instance skipjack and tongol tuna sold as “chunk light” contain less mercury than albacore; researchers don’t fully understand why this difference exists; possibly due to factors like water flow or industrial activities; they do know however why such variations exist.
No matter its source, all fish should be consumed in moderation. Both FDA and EPA suggest eating two to three servings a week from low mercury fish sources such as skipjack tuna and one from higher mercury sources like albacore tuna.
Consumer Reports conducted tests on canned tuna and found that different brands contain lower amounts of mercury than others; however, you cannot always tell by looking at their labels. That is why it is recommended to choose pole & line caught varieties like Wild Planet Tuna in order to reduce Mercury intake while getting your protein and omega-3 needs met at an affordable cost. This provides an effective solution for getting all you protein & omega-3 needs met without adding to our mercury load.
It’s a nutrient
Mercury, a heavy metal, can enter our bodies through food sources and be distributed throughout kidneys, liver and brain tissue. Unfortunately, mercury serves no beneficial function and has been known to damage nervous systems, destroy immunity systems and cause birth defects as well as have detrimental environmental impacts.
The FDA suggests pregnant people eat eight to 12 ounces of fish weekly, choosing ones with lower mercury levels. Consumer Reports has discovered that many canned tuna brands exceed federal mercury limits. Therefore, pregnant women should steer clear of tuna as an option when selecting their seafood diet.
Mercury is a toxic element that accumulates through bioaccumulation. The effects of mercury exposure are most apparent among pregnant women and young children; high mercury exposure may lead to learning disabilities, behavioral issues, cognitive deficits, heart and kidney issues and mental retardation in infants.
Researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz recently conducted a survey among students dining halls. Their researchers discovered that many were overeating tuna and were unaware of its associated risks associated with mercury overconsumption. Their scientists encouraged the college to post signs in each dining hall that provide details regarding how much mercury can be found in one serving of tuna.
Although mercury in tuna may pose risks to health, most people should not refrain from eating seafood altogether. Fish provides essential omega-3 fatty acids essential for brain development and cardiovascular wellbeing; additionally there are plenty of alternatives with lower mercury concentration such as shrimp or salmon that should still be included as part of your daily diet.
Most seafood recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency does not contain mercury levels greater than canned tuna. The Environmental Defense Fund’s Seafood Selector website allows visitors to quickly compare mercury levels of different fish species such as salmon, snapper, sablefish and black cod as well as those with similar levels such as orange roughy, lingcod, striped bass wild sturgeon or opah.