One fish, two fish, red fish, Mercury Fish?

I promote increased fish consumption in the majority of my patients. Fish are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which promote a stable mood, improved memory, reduced triglycerides, nerve conduction, less uncomfortable menses, clear complexion and a healthy heart! Fish with the highest omega-3 levels are mackerel, tuna, salmon, sturgeon, mullet, bluefish, anchovy, sardines, herring, trout, and menhaden. They provide about 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids in about 3.5 ounces of fish1.  However, attention must be paid to minimizing environmental polluntants which fish can accumulate over time.

The Mercury Problem:

Unfortunately, our water bodies have been contaminated with a variety of pollutants. One especially toxic element found in fish is Mercury. Mercury reaches our water from metal processing, incineration of coal, medical waste and other waste, volcanoes and the mining of gold and mercury. 2 People are exposed to methylmercury, the most toxic form, primarily through ingestion of contaminated fish. Fetuses, infants and children exposed to methyl mercury may have impaired neurological development. Therefore women of childbearing age, currently pregnant and children are at the greatest risk for mercury toxicity damage. In adults, methylmercury toxicity may cause “pins and needles” sensation of hands, feet or mouth, decreased peripheral vision, lack of coordination of movements, impaired hearing, and muscle weakness. 3

Educated Balance:

So how do we maintain a balance between adding omega 3 rich fish to our diet and avoiding potential methylmercury toxicity? Make educated choices and supplement our diet with high quality fish oil, which has been purified and tested for mercury. These suggestions are from the National Research Center.

  • Avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish (also known as golden bass or golden snapper);
  • Limit consumption of all other types of fish to 12 ounces per week
  • Limit their consumption of canned albacore (”white”) tuna or fresh tuna to no more than 6 ounces per week;
  • Limit the fish eaten by young children to even smaller portions per week (no specific advice is given);
  • Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught in local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat no more than 6 ounces per week of locally caught fish, and do not consume any other fish during that week;

If more than the recommended amount of fish is eaten in one week, eat less in the following weeks.4

Eat well, be well.



1. Fish Oil. 2/2011.

2. Mercury in the Environment. Oct. 2000.

3. Health Effects, methylmercury. Oct. 2010.

4. Zuckerman, D. PhD, Gallo, A, MS, Levin, M, MPH Can Eating Fish Be Dangerous? The Facts of Methylmercury. Oct. 2007