Benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in fish may outweigh mercury risks

October 3, 2012

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that the health benefits of fish may outweigh the negative impacts of mercury.

The joint study out of Sweden and Finland aimed to create a risk-benefit model that would shed light on the risk of mercury consumption, versus the value of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to everything from heart health to cognitive function and improved eyesight. The study examined mercury levels and omega-3 concentrations in the hair and blood samples of 361 Swedish men and 211 men from Finland, all of whom had suffered from a heart attack.

The researchers found that while methyl mercury in fish may, indeed, pose a health risk, even a small change in fish consumption was found to prevent 7% of heart attacks in men, as long as mercury levels remained low. The researchers recommend eating fish but avoiding large predatory species like pike and perch, which contain a lot more mercury than smaller ones.

Abstract