Researchers say benefits of most fish outweigh risks of mercury - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Researchers say benefits of most fish outweigh risks of mercury

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Most Americans don't eat enough fish, which some experts say could be a result of fears of mercury exposure.

But now new research shows what many thought would hurt their heart, could actually help.

Fish is jumping back on the menu after studies linking heart disease to mercury exposure from fish caused many people to order the chicken.

But researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health weren't convinced the risks of mercury outweighed the benefits of the protein and healthy fat packed into each catch.

"There's a few fish species that have higher mercury, so the real question was whether those should be avoided by everyone, or just avoided by women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant," Harvard School of Public Health physician Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D. said.

Harvard turned to data from two large studies of 160,000 men and women. Researchers looked at the mercury levels of the participants, and compared that to the number who developed heart disease.

For the general population there's no link between mercury exposure from fish and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Mercury is naturally occurs naturally in the oceans, but it also comes from power plant and factory pollution.

Large fish like shark, swordfish and king mackerel have the highest amounts, and for that reason are not recommended for pregnant women or young children.

Studies have shown high mercury exposure could affect the brain of a developing fetus and child.

But for the rest of us fish is recommended.

Two servings per week of fish or shellfish with at least one or hopefully both being an oily or dark meat fish is an excellent target

It's a target worth aiming for as part of a heart-healthy diet.

Experts say they don't want their research to deter efforts to eliminate mercury in the environment, they say pregnant women and young children could benefit from mercury-free fish.

Online Anchor: Sunny Layne

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