National Healthy Moms Health Babies Coalition issued a statement that women who are pregnant (or breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant, or not trying but might be anyway, or dreaming about being pregnant, or know someone who’s dreaming about…) should eat at least 12 oz of fish per week (all types including the mercury heavy hitters) because of the developmentally helpful Omega-3 fatty acids. This is directly contradicted by the FDA, which says less than 12 oz because of mercury concerns. There’s a fierce fight out there over fish consumption, and a lot of confusion, which is amazingly silly because there is a very simple solution to the tuna or no tuna question:
1) Eat fish low in mercury (Like cod or tilapia).
2) Work to reduce mercury pollution so it doesn’t end up in fish.
1) Consider the source. Want to know who arrainged the review for HMHB? The fishing industry, of course! Of note, some of the HMHB members must not be happy because there is a disclaimer now on the main HMHB page that says members may not agree with HMHB statements. Not surprising that NIH, CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics don’t enjoy being mercury-enablers.
2) Wrong questions and false choices. The reason there is such a fight is that the fishing industry has framed the fight as “Is tuna healthy or not?”. But if you have other fish sources that are low in mercury, the question is moot from an immediate practical public health perspective. As to the industry question, for light tuna, the benefits probably outweigh the risks but only if you’re not eating other fish. Epi studies have shown that simply eating fish confers a benefit, it really doesn’t matter which kind it is. So why not get the benefit without the risk?
3) A study in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) came out a couple of days ago that found that changes in mercury loads in the atmosphere would decrease the mercury in the lakes and, therefore, the fish, rather quickly. So, pollution controls would dramatically help the mercury situation and we could all load up on albacore tuna again. The bizarre twist here is that the fishing industry is really the victim of mercury pollution from things like coal. Yet, because of their denialism, they have gone from victim to enabler. Read more about denialism’s deck of cards here.