Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More

Mercury vs. Omega-3s for Brain Development

just because fish-eating mothers may give birth to children with smaller brains doesn’t necessarily mean their children will grow up with neurological defects but using real-time functional MRI scans you can actually see the difference in brain activation in teens whose moms ate a lot of seafood when they were pregnant this is what a normal brain looks like when you flash a light in someone’s eyes but this is what you see and the mercury in PCB exposed brains suggesting toxicant related damage to the visual centers in the brain fish consumption may also increase the risk of our children being born with epilepsy does maternal fish consumption have an effect on how smart our kids turn out though we’ll look the DHA in fish the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid is good for brain development but of course the mercury is bad for brain development so what these researchers did was look at 33 different fish species to see what the net effect of these compounds would have on children’s IQ and for most fish species have found that the adverse effect of mercury on the IQ scores of children exceeded the beneficial effects of the DHA so much lost brain power from fish consumption that our country may actually lose 5 billion dollars in economic productivity every year for example our most popular fish tuna pregnant women ate tuna every day the DHA in the fish would add a few IQ points but the mercury in that very same tuna would cause so much brain damage that the overall effect of eating too much tuna while pregnant would be negative wiping out an average of 8 IQ points in fact the only two more brain damaging fish were Pike and swordfish at the other end of the spectrum the brain boosting effect of DHA may trump the brain damaging effects of mercury and salmon by little less than one IQ point unfortunately IQ just takes into effect cognitive damage caused by mercury not the adverse effects on motor function and attention and behavioral deficits we think that attention span may be particularly vulnerable to developmental mercury exposure probably due to damage to the frontal lobes of the brain and the IQ study didn’t take into account the relatively high levels of PCBs in salmon and the accompanying concerns about cancer risk adding sustainability concerns adds another wrinkle as farm-raised salmon are considered a fish to avoid whereas king mackerel is considered a best choice for sustainability but the mercury levels are so high as to warrant avoiding consumption exceeding both the FDA and EPA action levels for mercury contamination the way I look at is why except any loss of intelligence at all when pregnant women can get all the DHA they want from microalgae supplements without any of the contaminants getting the brain boost without the brain damage you

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