Pollutants in Salmon & Our Own Fat

Pollutants in Salmon & Our Own Fat
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Farmed Atlantic salmon, the kind of salmon most commonly found in restaurants and supermarkets, may be the single largest source of toxic dietary pollutants.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

This nationwide study, linking industrial toxins and diabetes, was published in 2006. Since then, Harvard researchers reported a link between persistent pollutants, like hexachlorobenzene, and diabetes in their Nurses’ Health Study. This is supported by an analysis they did of “six other…studies” published since 2006 that showed the same thing. They conclude that “past accumulation and continued exposure [to] these persistent pollutants may be a potent risk factor for developing diabetes.”

Where is hexachlorobenzene found? In a U.S. supermarket survey, salmon and sardines were most heavily tainted with hexachlorobenzene, with salmon “the most contaminated food” of all—especially farmed salmon, perhaps “the greatest, source of dietary [pollutants],” averaging nearly ten times the PCB load of wild-caught salmon.

But, wait a second. Since many of these [chemicals] were banned in the 70s, the levels inside people’s bodies have been going down, whereas the rates of diabetes have been shooting straight up. So, how could pollutant exposures be causing diabetes?

“This puzzle may be explained by the epidemic of obesity in the U.S.” They showed that “the association between [these toxins] and diabetes was much stronger among obese subjects compared [to] that of lean subjects. As people get fatter, the retention and toxicity of [pollutants] related to the risk of diabetes may increase.”

So, we’re not just exposed eating the fat of other animals; our own fat can be “a continuous source of internal exposure because [these persistent pollutants] are slowly but continuously released from [our own fat stores into our] circulation.”

And, they don’t call them persistent pollutants for nothing. These chemicals have such a long half-life that people “consuming regular (even [just] monthly) meals of [farmed] salmon…might [not only] consume high concentrations of [pollutants], but some of these [chemicals] might take between 50 and 75 years to clear from the body.”

What about the mercury in fish? Diabetics do seem to have higher mercury levels in their body. Here’s the mercury levels in hair samples from healthy people; here’s the levels in patients with diabetes or hypertension. But, mercury alone does not seem to increase diabetes risk. It may be the simultaneous exposure to both dioxins and mercury that increases risk. So, “[i]t should concern us that the [safety] limits for [dioxins and mercury individually] may underestimate the…risk” when they’re consumed together in seafood.

And then, once we get diabetes, higher pollutant levels “may be associated with [a] higher risk of [diabetic] complications.”

So, while the pharmaceutical industry works on coming up with drugs to help mediate the impact of these pollutants, a better strategy might be to not get so polluted in the first place.

Unfortunately, because we’ve so polluted our world, we can’t escape exposure completely. We’ve got to eat something. But, some foods are more contaminated than others. “[E]xposure to these pollutants comes primarily from the consumption of animal fat,” with the highest levels “found in fatty fish,” like salmon. “[F]armed Atlantic salmon” [may be] the single largest…source of [these pollutants].” And, that’s the kind of salmon you “most commonly find in [supermarkets] and restaurants.”

You hear about advisories warning “pregnant women…to avoid the consumption of food containing elevated levels of [pollutants and mercury].” But, since these toxins “bio-accumulate in the body for many years,…restricting the exposure to these pollutants only during pregnancy would not protect the foetus or…future generations against the harmful effects of these hazardous chemicals.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Photos by Mavis via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

This nationwide study, linking industrial toxins and diabetes, was published in 2006. Since then, Harvard researchers reported a link between persistent pollutants, like hexachlorobenzene, and diabetes in their Nurses’ Health Study. This is supported by an analysis they did of “six other…studies” published since 2006 that showed the same thing. They conclude that “past accumulation and continued exposure [to] these persistent pollutants may be a potent risk factor for developing diabetes.”

Where is hexachlorobenzene found? In a U.S. supermarket survey, salmon and sardines were most heavily tainted with hexachlorobenzene, with salmon “the most contaminated food” of all—especially farmed salmon, perhaps “the greatest, source of dietary [pollutants],” averaging nearly ten times the PCB load of wild-caught salmon.

But, wait a second. Since many of these [chemicals] were banned in the 70s, the levels inside people’s bodies have been going down, whereas the rates of diabetes have been shooting straight up. So, how could pollutant exposures be causing diabetes?

“This puzzle may be explained by the epidemic of obesity in the U.S.” They showed that “the association between [these toxins] and diabetes was much stronger among obese subjects compared [to] that of lean subjects. As people get fatter, the retention and toxicity of [pollutants] related to the risk of diabetes may increase.”

So, we’re not just exposed eating the fat of other animals; our own fat can be “a continuous source of internal exposure because [these persistent pollutants] are slowly but continuously released from [our own fat stores into our] circulation.”

And, they don’t call them persistent pollutants for nothing. These chemicals have such a long half-life that people “consuming regular (even [just] monthly) meals of [farmed] salmon…might [not only] consume high concentrations of [pollutants], but some of these [chemicals] might take between 50 and 75 years to clear from the body.”

What about the mercury in fish? Diabetics do seem to have higher mercury levels in their body. Here’s the mercury levels in hair samples from healthy people; here’s the levels in patients with diabetes or hypertension. But, mercury alone does not seem to increase diabetes risk. It may be the simultaneous exposure to both dioxins and mercury that increases risk. So, “[i]t should concern us that the [safety] limits for [dioxins and mercury individually] may underestimate the…risk” when they’re consumed together in seafood.

And then, once we get diabetes, higher pollutant levels “may be associated with [a] higher risk of [diabetic] complications.”

So, while the pharmaceutical industry works on coming up with drugs to help mediate the impact of these pollutants, a better strategy might be to not get so polluted in the first place.

Unfortunately, because we’ve so polluted our world, we can’t escape exposure completely. We’ve got to eat something. But, some foods are more contaminated than others. “[E]xposure to these pollutants comes primarily from the consumption of animal fat,” with the highest levels “found in fatty fish,” like salmon. “[F]armed Atlantic salmon” [may be] the single largest…source of [these pollutants].” And, that’s the kind of salmon you “most commonly find in [supermarkets] and restaurants.”

You hear about advisories warning “pregnant women…to avoid the consumption of food containing elevated levels of [pollutants and mercury].” But, since these toxins “bio-accumulate in the body for many years,…restricting the exposure to these pollutants only during pregnancy would not protect the foetus or…future generations against the harmful effects of these hazardous chemicals.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Photos by Mavis via flickr

Doctor's Note

If you missed the first two videos in this three-part series, I reviewed the existing links between seafood and diabetes risk in Fish & Diabetes. And, I explored the concept of our own body fat as a reservoir for disease-causing pollutants in Diabetes & Dioxins.

More on hexachlorobenzene in Food Sources of Perfluorochemicals.

Our body has a tougher time getting rid of some toxins than others:

The best way to detox is to stop toxing in the first place.

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

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