Mercury in Your Sushi, What You Can Do

On January 23rd, 2008 the New York Times published the article “High Mercury Levels are Found in Tuna Sushi” It reveals that consuming six pieces or less of tuna sushi per week from all of the New York City restaurants that were analyzed would provide mercury exposure that exceeds acceptable levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency. Some restaurants were worse. They had mercury levels that were much higher – providing three weeks worth of acceptable mercury exposure per single piece of sushi!

Don’t think this is a problem? Check out these NY Times articles about adult mercury levels and some ofmercury’s health effects.

This is really unfortunate as non-tainted tuna is a very popular and excellent source of protein and omega-3 essential fatty acids – the heart healthy fats most notably found in salmon. Protein and omega-3 fatty acids are important for healthy development of a fetus, but pregnant women and those that may become pregnant are advised by the United State Food and Drug Administration to avoid tuna; mercury is a neurotoxin that damages a child’s developing brain. Mercury also affects children and adults by damaging nerves and causing numbness, tingling, clumsiness, weakness, fatigue, and tremor.

The first step in dealing with any type of environmental toxin is to reduce exposure. The Natural Resources Defense Council has an excellent tool for knowing the fish are safe and the fish that are commonly high in mercury. The fish with the lowest levels of mercury and highest levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids include sardines, herring, North Atlantic Chub Mackerel (other types may be high in mercury), and salmon (farmed salmon is high is DDT – get Alaskan).

Recent research published in the Environmental Protection Agency’s medical journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, shows that a supplement called n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) can dramatically and safely remove mercury by acting as a chaperone that guides mercury through the kidneys, into the urine and into the toilet. Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that NAC seems to substantially lower mercury levels in an unborn child when taken by the mother.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it. But it gets better. NAC is an amino acid (protein building block) derivative that occurs naturally in your body. Pure NAC is safe and has very few side effects. It increases levels of glutathione, which is mentioned above, and acts as a potent anti-oxidant and mild anti-inflammatory. NAC is already used to treat the most common cause of liver failure – acetaminophen toxicity. Acetaminophen is the main ingredient in Tylenol.

For more information on this topic and other current health topics, check out my iTunes podcast or listen to it on your web browser. Look for the episode entitled “Excuse Me, Would You Like Some Mercury with Your Sushi?” Let me know if you have any comments or questions.

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