Most of us got the word on red meat. We know that it can clog up the system and lead to heart disease, among other distasteful consequences. Just the same, it’s still what’s for dinner for the carnivore majority – we’ve substituted this form of living dangerously for the drag racing or random hookups of our youth.
But fish eaters thought they had it figured out.
Well, not necessarily so, Captain Nemo!
Fish would be a healthy form of protein if not for the high levels of pollutants that contaminate many varieties. It’s true that the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week, but they note that some types of fish may contain high levels of mercury.
In more innocent (that is, less knowledgeable) times it wasn’t uncommon for schoolchildren to have fun playing with the “liquid metal” right in the classroom. But today, the consumption of fish is by far the most significant source of ingestion-related mercury exposure in humans and animals.
This is particularly important for women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children, as developing and unborn children are susceptible to nervous system damage from mercury.
Fortunately, we have a good way to remember which fish show the highest levels of mercury, and should be avoided. They are the preferred targets of sport fishing – shark, swordfish, marlin and king mackerel. So it’s as if Mother Nature is warning us:
The ones that put up the biggest fight are exactly the ones that will bite you back once you eat them.