All fish contain small amounts of methylmercury, the most toxic form of mercury, and “fish consumption represents the main source of methylmercury exposure.” In my videos Nerves of Mercury and Fish Fog, I discuss how mercury exposure through fish consumption, even within the government’s safety limits, can have adverse neurological and behavioral effects on child development. Severe exposure can cause overt structural brain abnormalities like microcephaly, a shrunken brain disorder. But we didn’t know whether low exposure could also affect brain size until recently.
Let’s put those levels into practical terms. In the video, Fish Intake Associated with Brain Shrinkage, you can see the results of a study measuring mercury concentration in human hair. Just one can of tuna a week raises human hair mercury concentration to levels nearly three times as high as the “high” group in the ultrasound study. So the bodies of the women suffering high mercury contamination were considered heavily contaminated, but even just a little canned tuna once in a while could bump our levels even higher. So the high really wasn’t that high. But what did they find?
The researchers demonstrated that babies born to mothers with higher hair mercury levels had cerebellums up to 14% shorter than those born to mothers with lower hair mercury levels. They conclude that prenatal exposure to what may be considered low-levels of methylmercury does indeed influence fetal brain development as evidenced “by decreased size of a newborn’s brain.”
But what about the long chain omega-3 DHA in fish—isn’t that necessary for healthy brain development? That’s the topic of my video Mercury vs. Omega-3s for Brain Development.
For more on canned tuna in particular, check out:
- Which Brand of Tuna Has the Most Mercury?
- Carcinogenic Putrescine
- The Effect of Canned Tuna on Future Wages
- Amalgam Fillings vs. Canned Tuna
- Mercury in Vaccinations vs. Tuna
–Michael Greger, M.D.
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