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It’s Just Tuna…

It’s Just Tuna…that’s what I thought until I read the bottom of the can. IMG_20160831_143833

Eating is so complicated. The first thing I noticed was the invitation to not drain the tuna (no photo, but really, fish in a can is visually unappetizing, and the liquid may be the most unappealing part). But I left it in and mashed my way to a sandwich.

Then, the line: “we select smaller albacore which accumulates less mercury than larger albacore.”

I hadn’t thought much about mercury in fish (since the 80’s when it seemed a national epidemic) until I recently heard Tony Robbins interviewed by Tim Ferris. Apparently he had a huge problem with mercury in his body. Well, I am not a scientist, nutritionist, or other kind of expert but here is what seems to be the bottom line for your tuna (and other fish/seafood) intake.

  1. Mercury is present in all fish. Some fish have higher concentrations than others. You should consume less of the fish with higher concentrations. Tuna is one of those fish. Canned Salmon is a great alternative to canned Tuna. The lowest canned Tuna variety (light tuna) has 16 times more mercury in it than canned Salmon. Some canned Tuna has up to 45 times more mercury in it than canned Salmon. Check out this chart for comparisons.
  2. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the fish the more mercury. The reason for this is that a bigger fish, especially predator fish (shark, swordfish, tuna, orange roughy), has lived longer and eaten more other fish and food products in the ocean and has accumulated more mercury as a result.
  3. Bottom feeders have less mercury:  shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams, etc. have less mercury.
  4. The source of Mercury in the environment has both natural and anthropogenic sources, so it would be in our best interest to do as much as possible to reduce the amount of mercury we contribute to the atmosphere/ocean.

My favorite quote from the articles I read was this from Time Magazine online:

Still, the health benefits of canned tuna outweigh potential contaminant risks, says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “All studies comparing the inclusion versus the exclusion of fish show better health associated with the inclusion of fish in the diet,” he says. “Those contaminants are unfortunate—but that’s the reality in a world we haven’t treated all that well. Perfectly ‘pure’ food no longer exists on this planet.”

Here are some resources:

Mercury Myth: A Fish Tale Of Epic Proportion

United Nations Report on Global Mercury
FDA: Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish

 

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