Americans don’t consume as much tuna as they do in other parts of the world, but generally speaking we can say that it’s still a very popular food in the United States, second only to shrimp in the seafood category. Perhaps this is because tuna is high in protein and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are beneficial to our health. Or perhaps because it’s tasty and easy to prepare. All you have to do is open up a can of tuna and it’s ready to eat.
Whatever the reason, experts believe that tuna isn’t as healthy as we think it is.
The biggest culprit of this negativity is mercury, a toxic heavy metal that is naturally found in the air, water, and soil.
Mercury is released into the environment in a number of ways, primarily by burning coal in power plants and industrial processes, or even naturally, as in the case of volcanoes. As we are exposed to mercury, either through the air or by ingesting contaminated fish, this heavy metal tends to gather in our bodies in its organic form—methylmercury. High amounts of methylmercury can be harmful and even toxic, and can cause serious health problems.
Some of the symptoms are:
Nervousness, anxiety, irritability;
Apathy or aggression, mental confusion;
Insomnia, frequent nightmares;
Forgetfulness and memory lapses;
Headaches, migraines, muscle pain;
Delirium, hallucinations, suicidal tendencies;
Weak, brittle, or soft teeth, that may fall out.
Studies point to associations between high levels of mercury and neurological problems, in addition to Alzheimer’s disease, autism, anxiety, depression and Parkinson’s. Almost all fish and seafood contain mercury, but larger species such as sharks, swordfish, mackerel and tuna, which are predators, tend to accumulate more of this substance. Fish like tuna, eat smaller fish, which have also absorbed mercury. That is, the more fish the tuna eats, the more mercury it absorbs.
Although there is a lot of debate on the subject, many health agencies recommend eating fish like tuna in moderation. People who are most at risk of being affected by mercury contamination are pregnant women, infants, and children.
If you like to eat seafood, it’s better to choose those with smaller amounts of mercury such as herring, cod, shrimp, lobster, oyster, salmon and sardines.
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