In recent years, health studies have promoted the benefits of eating fish. At the same time, other studies have warned that some fish contain chemicals that may be harmful. The latest study looks at all the research and concludes it's still worth it to include fish in your weekly diet. VOA's Melinda Smith reports.
If you want to eat something that is high in protein and omega-three fatty acids, eat fish. But if you're worried about fish that contains small amounts of mercury, PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls) and dioxins...scientists say stop worrying. The level of environmental chemicals found in most fish is so low, the positive benefits far outweigh the negative.
Researchers at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts looked at hundreds of studies about fish and health. They concluded that eating fish weekly has dramatic benefits. Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian is with the Harvard School of Public Health. He says:
"We found that a modest intake of fish, about one or two servings per week, was enough to reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack by about 35 per cent, which is a considerable effect."
While large amounts of PCBs and dioxin can cause cancer, most sources of those chemicals are found in other foods. As for mercury, Dr. Mozaffarian found no evidence that low levels found in many fish was harmful.
DR. DARIUSH MOZAFFARIAN:
"If you eat a fish and it has some mercury in it. You might be getting less benefit from that fish than if it didn't have mercury in it. But the overall benefit is still positive."
There are some precautions, however: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends younger women should avoid certain fish containing higher levels of mercury. Dr. Mozaffarian explains:
"For women of childbearing age, nursing mothers and young children, our findings agreed with the conclusions of the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] and the advisory of the FDA. That was really that there are four fish those women should avoid. Shark, swordfish, golden bass and king mackerel."
Listen to our Health report for more details.