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Amalgam Fillings vs. Canned Tuna

Eating a can of tuna once a week is equivalent to living with how many mercury-containing amalgam tooth fillings?

December 7, 2009 |
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Because mercury can be so dangerous, concern has been raised about amalgam fillings, the silvery cavity fillings in our teeth, because they do contain mercury and release a certain amount every day. Eating just a single can of tuna a week, is the equivalent to having how many mercury-containing fillings in our teeth, day in and day out?
Less than 5, 5-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, or more than 25? Now keep I mind, you only have 32 teeth.
One can a week, is like living with, 29 mercury-containing fillings. I don’t know if you remember those old James Bond flicks, but basically that means looking like this.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out theother videos on mercury and tuna. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Mercury Testing Recommended Before Pregnancy and Tarragon Toxicity?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on mercury and tuna. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/nicodemus2/ nicodemus2

      I recently found out that amalgam fillings in the teeth release mercury and I have about 4-5 of such fillings; should I remove them? Are there scientific articles encouraging it’s removal? I found this organization/video on the web touting for its removal because of it’s neurotoxicity: http://www.iaomt.org/patients/video.asp
      Are there risks of removing them?
      Thanks in anticipation of your response.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/pabloc/ PabloC

      Dear Dr. Greger:
      First of all, let me thank you for your excellent work here. It really helped me and I’m sure it will help others a LOT. I’ve been ovolactovegetarian since I was 4, and now I’m a vegan for almost 2 years.
      I’m also an odontology student, so I’m not only interested in nutrition but also in the subjects related to my career. I was told in the university that amalgam fillings release a minimal amount of mercury a day, so it’s not relevant as a health issue, ¿what do you think about it?. I would feel sorry about all the patients I put those grey fillings in if i knew they’re bad for health.
      Responding to those wondering if there is a risk removing amalgam fillings, yes there is: the risk that your dentist removes additional tooth material by expanding the cavity every time they remove it, either by iatrogenesis or because there is a caries under the filling. Another risk may occur because of the swallowing of the filling material, because of that, the dentist should always use a rubber dam before removing the amalgam fillings.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mjeejsmith/ mjeejsmith

    I’ve read that Albacore tuna is bad but that chunk light tuna is safe and has safe levels of mercury (if there is such a thing). Is that true?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/nickyc/ NickyC

      Hi Mjeejsmith,
      As we have learned, all types of tuna contain dangerous levels of mercury. This other video also shows the staggering levels of mercury in tuna: (http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/mercury-in-vaccinations-vs-tuna-2/)

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Hello mjeejsmith!
      Just to expand on NickyC’s comment, Nicky is correct. A safe level of a toxin should always be 0. Mercury is stored in fat and it can take years for you to actually remove the mercury from your body. Check out this video regarding fish contamination http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/hair-testing-for-mercury/ As with regarding the different types of tuna, check out the Environmental Defense fund’s website http://apps.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=16314 and they show the tunas with the lowest levels. But again, these levels of mercury are considered “moderate” and other contaminants are excluded. Especially when they say eat no more than 4 servings of US/Canadian albacore a month, you know there is something harmful just in that statement. Seafood now a days can be considered where the sewage winds up, they are almost always contaminated with a wide range of harmful chemicals, from PCB’s, Mercury and Dioxins to Arsenic. These chemicals are difficult to remove from ones system so we should not eat these foods as to avoid replenishing the supply of toxins in our body. Check out this video for more information on fish contamination http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/food-sources-of-pcb-chemical-pollutants/

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/LinaOtalora/ Lina Otalora

    Interested in the same previoos question about Albacore and chunk light tuna.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/gabrielg/ GabrielG

    I have lots of fillings in my teeth. Is there anything I can do apart from removing them?.

    I read that sardines are better than tuna regading mercury. Also, from the nutrition data I see they have more omega 3. What about mackerel?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/drdons/ DrDons

    Almost all fish are contaminated by mercury. So to minimized the ingestion of mercury it is best to avoid all fish. See http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/hair-testing-for-mercury/. I know of no credible sources recommending removal of fillings to reduce mercury load in the body. Omega 3′s are best consumed through natural sources (flax and walnuts) or by taking algae derived omega3′s(which is where the fish get it anyway)… see http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/algae-based-dha-vs-flax-2/. By avoiding fish you also avoid all the cholesterol, saturated fat plus all other contaminants such as PCB’s.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/gabrielg/ GabrielG

      Please not there are other countries apart from the US. Not all supplements are available everywhere.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/nicodemus2/ nicodemus2

    Does anyone know a good place where you could go to test your mercury level- like doing a mercury hair test?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/nicodemus2/ nicodemus2

    Dr. Greger,

    With regard to your video:
    http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/amalgam-fillings-vs-canned-tuna/

    I recently found out that amalgam fillings in the teeth release mercury and I have about 4-5 of such fillings; should I remove them? Are there scientific articles encouraging it’s removal? I found this organization/video on the web touting for its removal because of it’s neurotoxicity: http://www.iaomt.org/patients/video.asp
    Are there risks of removing them?

    I am confused because some people say that the exposure from amalgam is not sufficient to result in any health issues, and that taking out the fillings could cause more problems (i.e. weakening the tooth more, and increasing mercury exposure in the process).

    To further compound this case, the alternative to amalgam (composite resins/fillings) have also proven to be equally or even more toxic compared to amalgam. I have read several scientific articles and they seem to contradict one another.

    Thanks in anticipation of your response.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/vetstud/ vetstud

    Dr. Greger,

    Thanks again for this incredibly informative website. I love it.

    A question: how did you come up with your calculation about how many mercury-containing dental fillings are equivalent to eating a can of tuna once a week?”

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/gabrielg/ GabrielG

    Maybe instead of removing amalgams and cause problems it is better to take a supplement that captures the mercury. I read selenium is good but have no experience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DD.LoveDove Didi Nour

    does this come from the TUNA or the CAN ?? what about ALL canned food? i didn’t find any video in this concern ???

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      That’s from the tuna itself, due to biomagnification up the food chain of the mercury largely released from burning coal.

  • Sara

    I’m not sure if this is still open as the last comment was a year ago but I will give it a go. I have to have a filling replaced and my dentist said the only option is a mercury amalgam filling due to the size and shape of the cavity. I am a nursing mother. Is it safe for me to have my tooth filled or should I wait? There is too much conflicting info out there. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.barnett.733 Gary Barnett

    According to the World Health Organization – Mercury is toxic to human health, posing a particular threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life. Mercury exists in various forms: elemental (or metallic); inorganic (e.g. mercuric chloride); and organic (e.g., methyl- and ethylmercury), which all have different toxic effects, including on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.

    Mercury is highly toxic, especially when metabolized into methyl mercury. It may be fatal if inhaled and harmful if absorbed through the skin. Around 80% of the inhaled mercury vapour is absorbed in the blood through the
    lungs. It may cause harmful effects to the nervous, digestive, respiratory, immune systems and to the kidneys, besides causing lung damage. Adverse health effects from mercury exposure can be: tremors, impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, insomnia, emotional instability, developmental deficits during fetal development, and attention deficit and developmental delays during childhood. Recent studies suggest that mercury may have no
    threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur.

    Dental amalgam is the most commonly used dental filling material. It is a mixture of mercury and a metal alloy. The normal composition is 45-55% mercury; approximately 30% silver and other metals such as copper, tin and
    zinc. In 1991, the World Health Organization confirmed that mercury contained in dental amalgam is the greatest source of mercury vapour in non-industrialized settings, exposing the concerned population to mercury
    levels significantly exceeding those set for food and for air.

    (Source:http://www.who.int/ipcs/publications/cicad/en/cicad50.pdf)

  • Mercury Exposure

    Here is a much more detailed and nuanced breakdown of this comparision from the researcher who Dr. Greger quotes for his amalgma numbers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adpGsBI7u7Q&list=UUfe7ZYwOanRKdl0C_mX757A&index=5

  • Guest

    As this is a relevant topic, I was wondering?

    Root Canal Treatment? Its a dental procedure and even though there are surplus files and documents spilling around the Internet about faulty metal hips and metal teeth (such as above) Is there any real evidence linking Root Canal dental procedures with cancer? The idea about an abscess growing back in a dead tooth and mutating into something cancerous with no nerve sounds logical, but is there anything solid to note?

  • barbarabrussels

    I don’t know if this guide is a reliable or biased source, but maybe it can add some nuance about mercury levels in different fish http://www.nrdc.org/oceans/seafoodguide/page4.asp

  • TheLance3185 .

    End scene: James Bond and Jaws From Moonraker.