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Which Brand of Tuna Has the Most Mercury?

In a survey of three national brands of tuna in the United States, most cans exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safety level for human consumption.

May 30, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to HikingArtist.com.

Transcript

Are there some brands of tuna worse than others? An evaluation of mercury concentrations in three national brands of canned tuna was undertaken recently. In total they found that “55% of all tuna examined was above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safety level for human consumption.”
Mercury is not just a problem for children. As I’ve noted in videos over the years, the “Health effects resulting from consumption of methylmercury for adults are considerable and may include central nervous system damage, ataxia, paresthesia, hearing loss, diminishing vision, loss of sensation to extremities, and loss of consciousness leading to death.” “Due to the increased susceptibility of the developing nervous system,” though, “damages are more pronounced in fetuses, infants, and children and may include microcephaly, which is a shrunken brain, delayed development, impaired cogni- tion, and gross neurological disorders”
 Given the average level of mercury pollution found in canned tuna they suggest that your average 9 year old would exceed the EPA limit eating any more than a can of tuna every 43 days.
This is not the first study of canned tuna. Previous studies going back nearly 20 years found levels of mercury that were bad, but not as bad as the ones found now. The problem of mercury in tuna appears to be getting worse and worse.
But which brand was the worst? National brand #3 contained significantly more mercury than the other two but, they failed to disclose which brand was which. All they said was that “These results indicate that stricter regulation of the canned tuna industry is necessary to ensure the safety of sensitive populations such as pregnant women, infants, and children.”

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 Serena Mylchreest

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

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

This is the last video of a three-part series on the latest on the risks of mercury in fish. See yesterday's NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Nerves of Mercury and Hair Testing for Mercury Before Consider Pregnancy for parts 1 & 2. For more on the effects of mercury in fish on adults, check out Fish Fog. For more videos on canned tuna, see Carcinogenic Putrescine, The Effect of Canned Tuna on Future Wages, Amalgam Fillings vs. Canned Tuna, and Mercury in Vaccinations vs. Tuna. Then there are a thousand other topics I cover!

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

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    This is the last video of a three-part series on the latest on the risks of mercury in fish. See yesterday’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Nerves of Mercury and Hair Testing for Mercury Before Consider Pregnancy for parts 1 & 2. For more on the effects of mercury in fish on adults, check out Fish Fog. For more videos on canned tuna, see Carcinogenic Putrescine, The Effect of Canned Tuna on Future Wages, Amalgam Fillings vs. Canned Tuna, and Mercury in Vaccinations vs. Tuna. And then there are a thousand other topics other I cover!

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Such a great series!  So much so that I just wrote the ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) about their current recommendations to eat fish to pregnant mother’s and linked five of your well cited videos to help them review the incontrovertable research.  Will they change their guidelines?  I wrote to their liability department–maybe, we’ll see ;-}
    Keep up the great work!!

  • Jnaselli

    So, which brand DID have the most mercury? Are you allowed to post that publicly? Is there a brand that had less?

    • DrDons

       They did not disclose brands. I’m sure there is variation between brands but the issue is mute since there is no way to know how much mercury there is in what you are eating. Since mercury is such a toxic substance to nerves, heart and immune system  it is wise to avoid intake of all fish products. For a little perspective see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/mercury-in-vaccinations-vs-tuna-2/. By going on a plant based diet with no fish consumption you will have much less mercury in your body see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/maternal-mercury-levels/. More information can be obtained by watching the other 17 videos on mercury and diet.

  • Stefan Juhl M.D.

    So full of metal that tuna soon wont need a can………

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Exactly!  The Tuna will already be canned in the ocean (Canned at the source) and the Canner’s will be canned from their jobs!  It’s uncanny how candid I can be ;-}

  • troy

    I take vegan sourced DHA supplements, which can be hard to find (at least in Australia, where fish oil is *heavily* marketed).  It would be interesting if someone conducted a study into the level of heavy metals in fish oil or fish-sourced DHA supplements.

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Why eat fish when you can eat a toxin free, renewable resource of Omega 3– Flax Seed!!
      Avoid the pillaging (Pill-Aging–see Dr. Gregers video, http://nutritionfacts.org/video/prozac-residues-in-fish/ ) of our oceans, streams, and waterways and go Plant-Strong!   This would save yourself a lot of money that you could spend on a vacation to “shoot” the fish with your camera.  Go-Pro not Pro-zac!!

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      They have conducted studies: http://www.consumerslab.org does just that and reports to the FDA, which is probably not saying much. However, they do list the products that they test as being free or not free of Heavy Metals, Dioxins, Freshness, Quality and Amount of EPA an DHA.  And they provide articles with researched information.  They do charge $40 per year to access their information.  Maybe their information is somehow biased but I don’t see that on the surface.
      Dr. Gregor, any info you can provide on the background of ConsumersLab.org would be great.

  • Observer

    Need a little clarification about what’s “good” and what’s “bad.” I sometimes buy “Wild Planet” “wild albacore tuna (sashimi-grade)” (on Amazon) since they claim to be “less than half the mercury compared to conventional brands” and more n-3 fatty acid (2320mg DHA and 720mg EPA.)

    Now, I understand the mercury argument for not eating fish — but to simply ignore DHA and EPA n-3′s in exchange for a lower conversion (5%???) to long-chain n-3′s via ALA in flaxseed — just because fish is “animal cholesterol” and shouldn’t be eaten in the first place? The same argument (albeit in a lesser degree) can be made in reference to “grass-fed” animals since their n-3 count are higher than processed animals (and yes, due to their accumulation of plankton, grass, etc.)

    Disclaimer: I’m an evolutionary eater — not a vegetation, omnivore, pescatarian, etc. I like to avoid the artificial (corn flakes, nitrosamines, coloring, gmo’s) and eat what nature affords me — LIMITED animal fats and mostly plant-based foods — just like how nature intended.

  • Benubirdbc

    not helpful unless the brands are identified.

    • Clifford

      Agreed. The public has a right to know!

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

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post, Mercury Testing Recommended Before Pregnancy

  • Ronald Chavin

    In most longevity studies that I’ve seen, fish eaters live longer than vegans:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10479225

    Tuna fish are especially high in selenium, which binds with mercury to form a harmless selenium-mercury compound which is easily excreted by the body:
    http://www.undeerc.org/fish/pdfs/Selenium-Mercury.pdf

    Phytate in nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and vegetables also binds with mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, beryllium, and barium to render them harmless:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16478274
    http://curezone.com/forums/am.asp?i=1542754

    The Inuit (Eskimos) of Greenland have only 3 to 4 times as much mercury in their bodies, even though they consume about 100 times as much mercury, PCBs, and other marine pollutants as the average American. Although the Greenland Inuit are the world’s heaviest cigarette smokers and although their consumption of fruits and vegetables has been virtually zero until recently and although they add lots of salt when they eat their fish, seal meat/blubber, and whale meat/blubber, the Greenland Inuit have only half the age-adjusted total cancer death rate of Americans and cardiovascular disease is virtually nonexistent among the Greenland Inuit:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9447397

    The nations of the world with the longest life expectancies tend to be fish eating nations (Monaco, Macao, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Spain, Andorra, France, and Italy):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Comparison_gender_life_expectancy_CIA_factbook.svg
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-oYpOUY49IQk/TfqGo7Wo7kI/AAAAAAAAAXM/gJeoguIgmT8/s1600/Image%2B-%2BUS%2Bhealth%2Bcare.png
    http://www.nzinstitute.org/Images/uploads/nzahead-graphs/Life_expectancy._Aug11._Fig3._FINAL-popup.jpg
    http://img.patheticcockroach.com/01/life_expectancy_vs_healthcare_spending_per_capita.png

    • Ronald Chavin

      Many years ago, researchers thoroughly investigated the Greenland Inuit for health defects which could be blamed on their diet of fish, seals, and whales. They discovered that the number of Greenland Inuit daughters substantially exceeded the number of Greenland Inuit sons. Researchers then decided that this was the only health defect that could be blamed on the Greenland Inuit’s incredibly high consumption of mercury, PCBs, and other marine pollutants. However, new research now indicates that vegans have this exact same problem too:
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/869696.stm
      The theory now is that vegetarian women and fish-eating women both have a preponderance of beneficial gut microbes (lactic acid bacteria) which cause weight loss and create acidic bodily pathways which somehow cause daughters to be born instead of sons.

    • Rich

      Finally some rational thinking on fish merits. I read these studies as well. You can still eat fish safely, just choose wisely. I select wild cold water salmon -short life span and much lower than mercury content. Since I am not expecting to conceive anytime soon, I’m not too worried about my brain shrinking.

  • Southlander

    Still want and/or need fish in your diet, Ditch the “tuna” period. Try “caned” SALMON which is “wild caught” and is lower on the food chain than tuna. Don and I CAN! :-))

  • y..

    What a useless video title, the question wasn’t even answered.