veggies.jpg (6769 bytes)fruitbowl.jpg (6391 bytes)Fish and Shellfish: Contamination Problems Preclude Inclusion in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

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Fish and Shellfish: Contamination Problems Preclude Inclusion in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Spring 2004

The Issue

The Fats Subcommittee of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, led by Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, has recommended to the full committee that the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include a guideline that Americans include 8 to 9 ounces of fatty fish per week in their diets, presumably to achieve adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids and reduce the risk of heart disease. Although diets rich in fatty fish, as compared to red meat, have been shown to be associated with less cardiovascular risk, fish and shellfish often contain unsafe levels of contaminants. Fish is also high in animal protein, and often, in saturated fat and cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids are readily available in plant foods that do not have these attendant disadvantages.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a joint statement warning pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, breastfeeding women, and children to limit the consumption of fatty fish because of the potential effects of mercury and organochlorine toxicity. Given the high levels of mercury, organochlorines, and other environmental toxins that accumulate in fish, and in view of our nationís already animal-protein-heavy diets, a recommendation to consume two to three portions of fish weekly is likely to do far more harm than good.

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