The Swedes know a thing or two about seafood. Scandinavia is the largest fish supplier in Europe, and seafood is a key staple of the Swedish diet. So surely (the food hysterics would interject) people must be dropping dead in the streets of Stockholm from mercury poisoning. Right? Not exactly, according to a breakthrough new study:
The scientists studied more than 900 Swedish men and women who answered questionnaires about the amount of fish in their diet. The researchers also analyzed the subjects' red blood cells for levels of mercury and selenium, another element that has been tied to heart health.
Mercury levels in the subjects were generally low by Scandinavian standards, the Swedish team found, but higher than much of the U.S. population. But people whose red blood cells showed elevated amounts of mercury did not have a higher risk of cardiac problems than those whose red cells had less of the toxin.
In other words, "the protective nutrients in fish override any harmful effect of mercury at these low levels of mercury," says Maria Wennberg, a public health researcher at Ume University and a member of the study team.
The Swedish research team concludes: “The biomarker results indicate a protective effect of fish consumption. No harmful effect of mercury was indicated in this low-exposed population...” Another Swedish study from last year concluded that regularly eating fish can actually boost intelligence scores for teenagers.
So while the Swedes are enjoying their gravlax, we here in America are still crippled by an irrational fear of fish-based mercury poisoning. Even though, as the New England Journal of Medicine has pointed out, there hasn't been a clinical report of such a case since the 1950s and 1960s. And those were half a world away in Japan. A study from the Center of Consumer Freedom found that the highest mercury content in a sample of fish was less than 35 percent of what the FDA considers the baseline of mercury risk.
For more information about how much fish you can safely eat, check out our one-of-a-kind seafood calculator. As you'll discover, seafood is high in omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B12, protein, selenium, and iron.
It's also brain food, something that appears to be sorely lacking in the food nanny diet.
We’ll meet you at the seafood counter.