Monitor Your Seafood Consumption and Choose Wisely

Posted on Aug 15, 2008 in Health & Wellness, Heavy Metals

By Dr. Rashid A. Buttar, D.O., FACAM, FAAPM, FAAIM

Media reports on the recent studies showing high levels of mercury in various types of seafood have succeeded in scaring people, but few if any of these articles have given people what they need most – sound advice.

Seafood consumption is crucial to the proper development.  Fish like trout, salmon and sardines are among the greatest sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are well-known for being great for the brain and heart.  In addition, many people enjoy eating fish beccause it can be flavorful, relatively light and low in saturated fat.  The seafood industry is also an important part of the US economy.

But we cannot and should not ignore the data. Mercury is a known neurotoxin and is the second most dangerous substance known to humankind. The government has long warned of the dangers of exposure to lead, which has been linked to lower IQ scores and other serious meladies. But there have been comparatively few studies on the health effects from mercury exposure. Still, the studies that have been done make clear that mercury must be avoided.

Mercury comes in two forms, ethyl and methyl mercury. Ethyl mercury is how mercury appears in nature. It becomes methyl mercury when it is ingested by a fish for example, and that’s where it gets even scarier. Because methyl mercury is organic, it is more easily assimilated into the human body and therefore more likely to cause severe harm.

I am often asked at what level mercury becomes dangerous. Mercury is a poison, and any amount of poison is bad. However, because fish provides important nutrients, avoiding any and all seafood is inadvisable. So what to do?

First, choose smaller fish over larger fish. Everything being equal, a smaller fish like a wild salmon is preferable to blue-fin tuna, which is often used in sushi. Fish that live deep in the ocean are safer than those found in more shallow waters. Mercury is more dispersed in deeper waters, so cod is safer than grouper or red snapper.

The government has long warned pregnant woment against eating too much fish. But the latest studies should cause all people to think about the choices they make when dining out or shopping at the local supermarket.

Dr. Rashid A. Buttar ( is founder of North Carolina-based Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research and Chairman of the American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology. At the Center, Dr. Buttar treats adults and children who suffer from exposure to mercury, lead and other heavy metals.

To learn more about Heavy Metal Toxicity, Dr. Buttar has released a DVD as part of his Know Your Options, The Medical Series titled “Heavy Metal Toxicity, The Hidden Killer” and it’s available from