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Mercury levels in seafood could cause Lou Gherig’s disease

New research shows that people eating seafood which contains high levels of mercury increases their risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gherig’s disease. This was revealed in an initial study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 69th annual meeting in Boston in April.

The authors, however, said their study does not disprove the fact that fish and seafood diet has many health benefits. Most fish contains some level of mercury based on the waters they are in and their place in the food level. The bigger fishes like swordfish, tuna and shark has high levels of mercury.

Researchers want people to choose seafood containing low mercury levels to avoid the developing Lou Gherig’s disease. The study, authored by Elijah Stommel of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and a fellow of American Academy of Neurology, said: “For most people, eating fish is part of a healthy diet.” The study calls for better fishing guidelines and avoiding seafood caught in waters with mercury contamination.

Researchers studied 518 people, of which 294 had ALS and 224 didn’t. The participants were quizzed on the quantity and type of the fish they ate. The participants who consumed seafood regularly were at double the risk for developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis compared to those with lower levels. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children under 10 years are advised to limit consumption of larger fish species.

The study was supported by the Diamond Endowment Fund, the ALS Association, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the Dartmouth SYNERGY Clinical and Translational Science Institute and donor funds from the French and Scheuer Families.

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