There’s a rare toxin called domoic acid that can turn up in tuna and other seafood and cause anterograde amnesia, the loss of short-term memory popularized in the movie Memento.
A review was published recently on domoic acid, a potent neurotoxin found extremely rarely in seafood that can cause seizures coma death like the paralytic fish toxins, but mostly interestingly causes amnesia, permanent short term memory loss. If anyone’s seen the movie Memento, that’s what they’re talking about, anterograde amnesia.
So here’s kind of a prototypical case. Prior to mussel ingestion, the patient was entirely self-sufficient small business owner. After supper he started to get nauseous, up all night vomiting, but then he started to really deteriorate. Ten days later he’s in a coma on a ventilator, but then he recovers. Three months later he’s back, normal language, judgement, social skils. Didn’t know where he was, or what day it was. In fact doesn’t remember anything since getting sick and from then on was “unable to retain any new information,” though he could remember everything in his life before that fateful meal.
The toxin targets the hippocampus, the part of the brain where memories are laid down. Years later when he died, at the autopsy, there was complete neuronal loss in that part of the brain.
This amnesic seafood toxin, has been found in tuna, anchovies, mackeral. sole sardines, halibut. And the diatoms that produce the original toxin that bioaccumulates up the food chain “appear to be increasing in frequency and toxicity, thereby presenting a continued threat to human health and seafood safety.
The toxin is heat stable, so “it is clear that cooking will not increase the safety of the products contaminated with domoic acid.” It does ‘’cross the placenta can enter the brain tissue, and accumulate in amniotic fluid, so “”particular concern lies in infants and children that may be exposed.”
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
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This video is about natural toxins that bioaccumulate up the food chain, but the same happens with industrial pollutants. See, for example, Xenoestrogens & Sperm Counts and Fish Intake Biomarker. Some of the other unusual conditions to strike fish consumers are profiled in Sexually Transmitted Fish Toxin, New Corpse Smell, Allergenic Fish Worms, Fish Fog and Greasy Orange Rectal Leakage. There are about 50 videos on fish and hundreds more on more than a thousand other topics.
For more context, check out my associated blog post, Mercury Testing Recommended Before Pregnancy.