Eat fish, but avoid fish with the most pollutants. This is the conclusion drawn by a group of researchers in Sweden after having weighed the risks of mercury content against the advantages of healthful fatty acids.
Several studies have shown that people who eat fish have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who eat very little or no fish. At the same time, some fish contain environmental pollutants that can be hazardous to our health. One such pollutant that is suspected of increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease is methyl mercury, which is found in varying degree in different kinds of fish.
The researchers examined how the risk of heart attack is contingent on the amount of omega-3 fats and mercury from fish that people have in their body. The content was measured in blood and hair samples from people that had previously participated in health studies in northern Sweden and eastern Finland. Those who experienced a heart attack after the health check-up were compared with those who did not.
Mercury was linked to increased risk of heart attack and omega-3 fatty acids to decreased risk. The increased risk from mercury was noticeable only at high levels of this environmental pollutant in the body and if the level of the protective omega-3 fatty acids was also low.
In other words, what seems to be important is the balance between healthful and hazardous substances in fish.
The conclusion: Eat fish, but avoid fish with the most pollutants. The Swedish National Food Agency recommends that people should eat fish 2-3 times a week, but their intake of predatory fish (e.g. pike, perch, pike-perch), which contain a great deal of mercury, should be limited.
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