|New Study: Eating Fish for Heart Health? Not So Fast!|
A new study suggests that mercury and omega-3s affect heart health in contradictory ways, making fish a less-than-ideal source for these healthy fatty acids. To skip the mercury, skip the intermediary: go directly to the source! Plant-based omega-3s provide the same heart health benefits, but without the mercury — and without the environmental devastation or unnecessary suffering and death, while we’re at it. What a bargain!
New Study: Mercury in Fish Appears to Reduce Omega-3 Benefits
Mercury is a highly toxic element known to cause neurological and other health problems in humans, at even low or moderate levels of exposure. Due to environmental contamination combined with naturally occuring forms of mercury, it’s found in virtually all fish and shellfish. Seawater itself contains low levels of this toxic metal; but aquatic species absorb mercury much more easily than they can excrete it, so it accumulates in the bodies of fish and shellfish over the course of their lifetimes.
As reported by Reuters earlier this week,
Omega-3 fatty acids and mercury, both found in fish, appear to have opposite effects on heart health, according to a northern European study.
Health organizations like the American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic have traditionally recommended about 2 servings of fish per week, as a good way to get omega-3 fats for improved heart health. Even for fish-eaters, though, supplementation is often recommended for optimal benefit. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, boost immunity and improve arthritis symptoms, and in children may improve learning ability.” They also appear to lower heart disease risk, especially risk from sudden cardiac death.
But it’s the omega-3 fats that do all this good stuff: not the fish flesh itself!
This new study, combined with the environmental and ethical considerations surrounding seafood consumption, highlights the eminent sensibility of skipping the ‘middle man’ and going straight to the source.
Get Omega-3s Where the Fish Do: Plants!
Vegan dietician Ginny Messina offers this advice about omega-3 sources:
Flaxseeds and a handful of other plant foods provide an omega-3 fat called alpha-linolenic acid or LNA which is an essential nutrient. This means it is absolutely necessary in your diet. Best sources for vegans are flaxseed and flax oil, chia seeds, hempseed oil, walnuts or walnut oil, canola oil, and full fat soyfoods. You can check the vegan food guide to see how much of these foods to eat. (The information is in the bottom right section of the guide.)
Following all three of these recommendations should keep vegans on par with fish eaters:
Keep the Omega-3s, Ditch the Mercury!
This new study suggests that if you eat fish for your omega-3′s, the mercury you’re also eating may limit the heart health benefits you’d otherwise expect to enjoy.
Fish get omega-3s from the algae they eat. By choosing not to run these healthy fats through the bodies of fish before eating them, we can get all the health benefits without any of the mercury risks. With that approach, we also avoid supporting decimation of ocean ecosystems and the unnecessary infliction of suffering and death — not only upon commercially fished species, but on the millions of non-targeted fish, sea turtles, and aquatic mammals routinely killed and discarded as ‘bycatch’.
No contest: I’ll take the plant-based omega-3s, please!
Source: GO MEDIA: Written by Tanya Sitton - Image credit: Creative Commons photo by Tim Pearce.