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http://www.thedenverchannel.com/health/27303028/detail.html

Toenail Study: No Heart Risk From Mercury In Fish
Researchers Study Toxins Levels In Thousands Of Toenail Clippings

LOS ANGELES -- Researchers studying toxin levels in tens of thousands of toenail clippings determined that mercury from eating fish does not raise the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Health experts have long urged people to eat fish to lower heart risks, but some have worried that the mercury in certain types of fish like shark and swordfish might offset any benefits. Earlier studies on mercury and heart problems in adults have yielded contradictory results.

The latest government-funded work is the largest to look at this question. Instead of relying on what people said they ate, it measured mercury in their toenails — a good gauge of long-term exposure to the metal from fish consumption.
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No differences were seen in the rates of heart and stroke among those with the highest concentrations of mercury compared to those with the lowest.

"The average person should eat fish as part of a healthy diet," and not worry about ill heart effects, said Harvard School of Public Health cardiologist Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, who led the research published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

Mercury occurs naturally in soil and rocks, including coal. It gets into the air from coal-fired power plants and other sources, and settles into water. Small fish absorb mercury when they feed on plankton, and they, in turn, are eaten by bigger fish. Older and larger predator fish — like shark, swordfish and king mackerel — tend to accumulate the highest mercury levels.

In high quantities, the metal can damage the developing brain and nervous system of young children and is a special concern for pregnant women because of potential harm to the fetus.

The new research in adults used information from two studies of 174,000 health professionals. Some participants sent in toenail clippings when the work started decades ago.

Since toenails grow slowly and at different rates, they are favored over blood samples because they provide a more accurate picture of long-term mercury exposure. Toenails are also easy to collect and can be stored cheaply.

After an average of 11 years, 3,500 participants who had given nail samples had suffered strokes or developed heart disease. Researchers compared them to an equal number of participants who did not develop those health problems.

After adjusting for factors such as age, gender and smoking, there was no link between mercury exposure and risks for heart disease or stroke. This was true even at high exposure where the average toenail mercury levels were 1 microgram per gram — roughly twice the recommended limit for pregnant women.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults eat fish at least twice a week. Pregnant women and young children are advised to avoid fish with the highest mercury concentrations and limit themselves to 12 ounces of fish a week such as shrimp, salmon and catfish, which contain lower mercury levels.

While fish contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, consumers should also round out their diet with whole grains and fruits and vegetables, experts say.

"Fish intake is important, but we also have to think about the whole package," said Alice Lichtenstein, a Tufts University nutrition professor and spokeswoman for the heart group, who was not involved in the research.
 

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walleye seeker said:
i don't eat enough fish to worry anyway, i do need to eat more. i have to limit my intake of seafood because of gout, but fish is ok
Nice article. I myself never realy cared too much about fish intake!
 

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Cool I like to eat fish. My favorite fish has soft flaky flesh, yes. I'm not much a fan of fish with tougher flesh... hmm like cod, shark and swordfish. Tuna is okay, preferably raw.

I love Sashimi, but my mom thinks one of the reason why I'm so dumb and forgetful is because I eat it too often.
 

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The study is essentially worthless, except that it provided government funding for a bunch of professors who would otherwise have had to find something useful to do.

The fact that mercury doesn't cause heart problems was never an issue in the first place. Nobody ever thought it did, anyway.

Mercury causes brain and liver damage, and nobody should take this article to mean that mercury is harmless. The fact that it doesn't harm the heart is -- speaking of fish -- a red herring.

I have known a couple of people who had mercury poisoning, and believe me, you do NOT want to have that. Their hair and teeth fell out, and they basically went insane for two or three years until the doctors were able to slowly get the mercury out of their system. A little higher dose and they would have been dead.

I guess if you do get too much mercury, you can be happy that your heart won't be damaged. I can't say the same for the rest of your body, though.
 

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I eat a lot of fish and figure thats why I am crazy nope I was crazy before I ate a lot of fish but something to blame it on, I do try to avoid older fish that are known to have high levels.
 

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walleye seeker said:
... i have been told that the mercury warnings are set way to high, more to scare people into less harvest in most cases
Sorry, this is simply not the case.

Bio-magnification through the food web changes mercury, a nasty toxic metal, into METHYLmercury, a super, super bad thing for the nervous system. There is no safe level of exposure to methyl-mercury.  It is water soluble and thus extremely dangerous. They list children and fetuses as groups that should not be exposed to mercury because it causes irreversible harm to the nervous system, including loss of motor function, loss of memory, decreased intelligence, and overall cognitive impairment.

Scaring people into not poisoning themselves and their loved ones has everything to do with public health and nothing to do with fish harvest. The worst mercury contamination in the state is on the west slope, and we all know how it goes for gamefish over there.

A common misconception regarding the mercury content of fish is that bigger fish have more contamination. Well, that is true insofar as big fish are older as a rule, but a large young fish with exceptional vigor and growth will have less mercury in its tissue than a smaller, older fish. So eating only small fish, while it is likely the best practice in this matter, is still no guarantee of safety.

From the EPA:

Methylmercury in surface waters can enter the aquatic food chain and become stored in fish and shellfish muscle tissue. Eating fish and shellfish contaminated with methylmercury in amounts that exceed EPA’s criterion can result in a variety of health effects in humans. For example, children who were exposed to low concentrations of methylmercury before they were born might be at risk of poor performance on neurobehavioral tests, such as those measuring attention, fine motor function, language skills, visual-spatial abilities, and verbal memory.

In January 2001, EPA published a new water quality criterion for methylmercury that, for the first time, expresses a human health criterion as a concentration in fish and shellfish tissue concentration rather than in the water. Adopting the fish tissue criterion into water quality standards presents several challenges, such as implementing the fish tissue criterion in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit limits. In a 2001 Federal Register announcement, EPA stated its intention to develop implementation guidance to address these issues. Subsequently, EPA sought input from state environmental agencies to develop the guidance. EPA released draft guidance for public comment in 2006 and developed the final guidance to address the comments received.


Full article @ http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/standards/criteria/aqlife/pollutants/methylmercury/guidance-fs-final.cfm

Here is a very comprehensive link with extensive data concerning methylmercury. I would recommend anyone concerned with this topic at least scan this document.

http://www.epa.gov/iris/subst/0073.htm

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