Three decades of research in the Seychelles, the islands in the Indian Ocean, found no developmental problems in children born to women who consume ocean fish at a much higher rate than the average American woman, a recent study concluded.
“They eat a lot of fish, historically about 12 fish meals a week, and their mercury exposure from fish is about 10 times higher than that of average Americans,” said study co-author Edwin van Wijngaarden, an associate professor in the University of Rochester’s department of Public Health Sciences in Rochester, N.Y. “We have not found any association between these exposures to mercury and developmental outcomes.”
The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil may protect the brain from the potential toxic effects of mercury, the researchers suggested.
They found mercury-related developmental problems only in the children of women who had low omega 3 levels but high levels of omega 6 fatty acids, which are associated with meats and cooking oils, van Wijngaarden said.
“The fish oil is tripping up the mercury.” He said. “Somehow, they are interacting with each other. We found benefits of omega 3s on language development and communications skills.”
The new findings come amid a reassessment regarding the risks and rewards of eating fish during pregnancy.
High levels of mercury exposure can cause developmental problems in children, the researchers noted. Because all ocean fish contain trace amounts of mercury, health experts for decades have advised expecting mothers to limit their fish consumption.
“The theory is that mercury exposure confers toxicity because it induces oxidation in the human body, which often results in inflammation.” Van Wijngaarden said. “These omega 3s are more anti-inflammatory. The idea would be that they would reduce the level of inflammation in the mother, softening any effect that mercury might have on the unborn child.”
The study – funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Seychelles government – was published January 21 I in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The mercury levels in fish (both fresh and salt water) is a product of global pollution, mostly from incinerators that spew mercury laden smoke into the atmosphere. Mercury is a heavy metal that is extremely toxic, especially to the brain.
One third of the weight of the brain is DHA, one of the omega 3 fatty acids. Low levels of omega 3 fatty acids have been associated with autism, Alzheimer’s disease, ADD, ADHD, and as noted above, childhood development.
Both the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are essential. The human body can not manufacture them; they must be in the diet. However, we can make EPA and DHA (the most studied omega 3s) from other omega 3s.
Farm raised fish, like salmon and tilapia, contain no omega 3 fatty acids, as their diet consists of grains. The same is true for red meat. Who came up with the idea that all life forms (including us) should use grains as the mainstay of our diet? Answer – the Egyptians raised wheat as a staple for their slaves. The grains have been used as a cheap way to feed the masses ever since.
The Bottom Line:
I still think we need to limit our fish intake with species that are known to have high levels of mercury. Everyone should be supplementing daily with fish oil that has had the mercury removed. Omega 3 fatty acids are the most common deficiency in the U.S. today. I have been taking 2000mg per day for 35 years now and I am convinced that it has kept my systemic inflammation to a minimum. I also suspect it has prevented my hair from going gray at the age of 62.
Source: January 21, 2015 National Institutes of Health