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Report: Benefits of Seafood Outweigh Risks

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Fish can be good for you -- but consumers are warned to be aware of possible contaminants.

Fish can be good for you -- but consumers are warned to be aware of possible contaminants. Corbis hide caption

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Seafood is an excellent source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. But it can also be contaminated with infectious microbes and toxic compounds such as mercury. But to date, federal agencies have conveyed contradictory messages to the public, playing up the risks of mercury but also touting fish as a healthier alternative to beef or pork.

A new report by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies says the federal government should stop sending mixed messages about seafood, boost testing for contaminants and make it easier for consumers to find up-to-date information.

The bottom line? Seafood is good for you — just don't go overboard...

Omegas and Mercury: Getting the News Out

• The benefits of eating seafood are clear: it's a high-quality protein source, low in saturated fat and rich in polyunsaturated fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. There are possible additional benefits linked to brain and visual system development in infants, and reduced risk for certain forms of heart disease.

• Pregnant women, or those who may become pregnant, should be encouraged to eat seafood, but they should also be aware of contaminants — specifically mercury — and weigh the risks.

• Federal agencies should increase monitoring of seafood for contamination by methylmercury and organic pollutants, and make the results readily available to the public. Those agencies should also develop better recommendations about levels of pollutants that may pose a risk to specific groups of people.

• When sampling seafood for both nutrients and contaminants, distinctions should be made between wild-caught, domestic and imported seafood.

• The U.S. government should improve its interactive Web sites to make seafood information easier to get and understand. "Making balanced seafood choices requires that consumers consider both nutrients and contaminants that may be present in seafood and that they receive useful information on both benefits and risks simultaneously to inform their choices."

Source: Institute of Medicine



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