Whether 'tis healthier for the body to consume
The salmons and the tunas of the mighty oceans,
Or to take arms against conflicting reports,
And by opposing end them?
There were two conflicting health studies released yesterday that will probably send more confusion to the public than enlighten them.
First is the Harvard report published in JAMA, that heralds the 36 percent (wow!!) reduced risk of dying from heart attacks if people will have "modest fish consumption" --- around 1-2 servings per week. Eating fish rich in omega-3 oils can also reduced total deaths by 17 percent (wow, again!!), according to the same study. The conclusion read: "the benefits of fish intake exceed the potential risks."
Second is the 400-page report of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (download the 8MB+ pdf file here and here), also released yesterday, was more prudent in its conclusion saying that while there is indeed existing medical evidence that fish oils can deter dying from heart attacks, it recommended that government health authorities should revise its health messages on who should eat what seafood.
The good in eating fish --- you get protein and those heart-protective omega fish oils.
The bad part --- there's a lot of harmful contaminants in them like mercury, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
So, what should we do?
To eat fish or not to eat fish?
Do the benefits really outweigh the risks?
Prof. Julie Caswell of the University of Massachusetts has sound comments:
"The balance of benefits and risks are different for different groups in the population. We're recognizing that you could have all the guidance in the world, but it must get in supermarkets and restaurants where people make decisions on what to eat."
What are these different-strokes-for-different-folks she's talking about?
- For Pregnant, Breastfeeding Moms, and Children up to 12 years - should eat about 350 grams of fish rich in omega fish oils per week, but avoid large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel. The present recommendations state that pregnant and breastfeeding moms can eat canned tuna, but I beg to differ. I think these moms should temporarily refrain from eating canned tuna while pregnant or breastfeeding. Canned tuna is a tricky food item; it has lots of omega oils and it also has lots of mercury. People should be knowledgeable about the difference between white-style tuna and light-style tuna. Children should eat only 170 grams of white-style tuna per week.
- For Adult Men and Women at Risk of Heart Disease - eat fish regularly and eat a variety of fish types to minimize the gravity of getting contaminated and poisoned with harmful mercury, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
If you are still puzzled, study this list well and know your choices before buying in wet markets or supermarkets.
Oh, one more thing. If they have those health warnings on cigarette packs, can't we also ask markets and seafood restaurants to post eye-catching signs on their walls regarding the good and bad types of seafood to buy and eat?
The public should know. They must know they have a choice in what to eat and what NOT to eat.