A Fine Kettle of Fluoxetine

A Fine Kettle of Fluoxetine
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Excreted pharmaceutical drugs, such as Prozac, can end up polluting our waterways, and may bioaccumulate in fish flesh.

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The source for the New York City water supply was recently tested for the occurrence of pharmaceutical and personal care products. As I talked about in one of my previous videos, many of the drugs we take are excreted in our urine, and can end up polluting our waterways.

What about New York City? Well, they found trace amounts of drugs like Tylenol, ibuprofen; stimulants like nicotine, caffeine; hormones like estrone and testosterone; some antibiotics; a barbiturate, Valium. The levels they found were extremely low, though; well under the New York safety standards.

The concern is bioaccumulation. Does it build up in the flesh of fish swimming in it? Well, in a national study of the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in fish, they did find, for example, Prozac metabolites in fish fillets at levels higher than that found in the surrounding water.

But, before one considers eating fish to improve their mood, know that these drugs are mostly concentrated in the brains of fish. And, a recent Harvard study looked at fish consumption and depression—the Harvard Nurse’s Study—and their findings “do not support a protective effect of long chain [omega 3s] from fish on depression risk”—though they do “support the hypothesis that higher ALA  [the plant-based omega 3 found in flaxseeds and walnuts, may]” reduce depression risk.

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

The source for the New York City water supply was recently tested for the occurrence of pharmaceutical and personal care products. As I talked about in one of my previous videos, many of the drugs we take are excreted in our urine, and can end up polluting our waterways.

What about New York City? Well, they found trace amounts of drugs like Tylenol, ibuprofen; stimulants like nicotine, caffeine; hormones like estrone and testosterone; some antibiotics; a barbiturate, Valium. The levels they found were extremely low, though; well under the New York safety standards.

The concern is bioaccumulation. Does it build up in the flesh of fish swimming in it? Well, in a national study of the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in fish, they did find, for example, Prozac metabolites in fish fillets at levels higher than that found in the surrounding water.

But, before one considers eating fish to improve their mood, know that these drugs are mostly concentrated in the brains of fish. And, a recent Harvard study looked at fish consumption and depression—the Harvard Nurse’s Study—and their findings “do not support a protective effect of long chain [omega 3s] from fish on depression risk”—though they do “support the hypothesis that higher ALA  [the plant-based omega 3 found in flaxseeds and walnuts, may]” reduce depression risk.

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to National Geographic and Alejandro Ramirez.

Doctor's Note

The earlier video I refer to in this one is Prozac Residues in Fish. Researchers have also found evidence of Prozac in poultry; see Prozac in Poultry Is Better Than Penicillin. Despite the contaminants, tap water is still likely better; see Bottled Water vs. Tap. A better way to avoid unwanted drugs may be to cut back on meat (see Drug Residues in Meat) and dairy (see The Acne-Promoting Effects of Milk), and transition to a more plant-based diet (see Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants)—which, for reasons other than the ALA mentioned in the video, may also improve mood (see Improving Mood Through Diet). And, I didn’t mean to suggest caffeine is necessarily deleterious to health; check out What About the Caffeine? 

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Mercury Testing Recommended Before PregnancyStool Size and Breast Cancer Risk; and How To Reduce Dietary Antibiotic Intake.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

12 responses to “A Fine Kettle of Fluoxetine

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  1. The earlier video I refer to in this one is Prozac Residues in Fish. Researchers have also found evidence of Prozac levels in poultry products. Despite the contaminants, tap water is still likely better than bottled. A better way to avoid unwanted drugs may be to cut back on meat and dairy and transition to a more plant-based diet, which, for reasons other than the ALA mentioned in the video, may also improve mood. And I didn’t mean to suggest caffeine is necessarily deleterious to health—check out What About the Caffeine? Feel free to also browse through the other 1,000+ topics covered here at NutritionFacts.org




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    1. Even though we cut off their (Salmon) way back home by building damn’s at least they won’t be depressed about it.  Comon’, you knew that was coming!
      Again more fodder to feed my patients about the benefits of plants and the benefits of letting the fish live their “natural” undepressed lives;-}




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  2. Now fluoride is dumped into our drinking water and fluoride slightly(?) reduces thyroid function – dito for fluoride toothpaste.  People I know claim that having gone from fluoride free toothpaste to fluoride ones resulted in less energy and napping until their thyroid (T4) meds were increased.  What science is there behind this?




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    1.  Here is Dr. Greger’s position on fluoride

      “The proposed EPA
      changes to water fluoridation have sparked a resurgence of many of the
      old anti-fluoridation arguments, which as far as I can tell were
      successfully debunked over
      50 years ago. According to the CDC, fluoridation of drinking water
      joins vaccination (another unjustly vilified practice) as one of the greatest public health achievements in the last last century.”




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  3. What a great food fish is – you get your mercury, lead, dioxin, nuclear waste and now prescription drugs! Everything your body needs……. THIS IS GROTESK! Luckily the postman delivered my DEVA DHA today.




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  4. Great information. Once again a wise nutritionalist would seem to place his  emphasis on plant based  sources of Omega 3’s or their precursors instead of animal/fish derivatives.

    Just curious if many of these pollutant drugs are eliminated in the purification production of fish oil capsules, from certain manufacturers.

    Thank you.




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  5. Just wanted to correct you on the NYS Standard for caffeine (0:50) – 50,000 ng/L is equal to 50 micrograms per litre. So, 0.05 mg/L – well below physiological response. I still wouldn’t want micrograms/L of some of the other compounds though.




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    1.  Thank you so so much! I’ve rerecorded and re-uploaded the video to correct the egregious error (what’s 3 orders of magnitude between friends :). As is customary, anyone finding any errors on the site are awarded a free DVD of their choice (http://www.drgreger.org/DVDs). Please just email me your mailing address to mhg1@cornell.edu and I’ll get it right off. I really appreciate your letting me know and encourage you to keep help me keep the site as scientifically rigorous as possible!




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