Sushi kills your brain?
2012-12-06 0:00


Can eating too much sushi reduce your brain power?

Mercury contamination in big fish such as sharks, swordfish and certain types of tuna is on the rise, and smaller traces of the toxic metal may be enough to cause restricted brain development or other health problems for humans who eat them, according to data released Tuesday.

"Levels of exposure that are defined as safe by the official limits, are actually having adverse effects," said Dr. Edward Groth, author of one of two new reports published ahead of a United Nations conference on mercury pollution.

"These are not trivial effects, these are significant effects," Groth, an adviser to the World Health Organization, told journalists in a web conference. "There does appear to be evidence now, fairly persuasive evidence, that adverse effects occur from normal amounts of seafood consumption."

Scientists have warned about the potential dangers of mercury in seafood since the 1950s when mercury-contaminated waste water was dumped in the sea from a factory in Minamata, Japan. Thousands suffered poisoning, which in extreme cases lead to insanity, deformation and death. Many children whose mothers had eaten contaminated fish were born with severe disabilities.

The mercury levels at Minamata were uniquely high, but since then scientists have sought to discover whether tiny traces of mercury found in seafood across the oceans could have an impact on the health of fish-eating humans.

Although little risk has been detected in most types of fish, the authorities have long warned vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women and small children, to limit their consumption of certain species of big ocean predators.

The European Union recommends pregnant or breastfeeding women not to eat tuna more than twice a week. The US Food and Drug Administration says they should avoid shark, swordfish or king mackerel, although it says some tuna should be included in their diet.


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