Are there health risks associated with eating fish?

14 November 2010


Dear Chris and the gang
Can you help me? I am VERY concerned about this Salmon/Tuna issue. As I virtually live off Salmon and Tuna, eating Salmon 1-2 times a week and Tuna 4-5 times!!
I don't eat red meat but do like chicken, but I thought I was eating healthily? I have only just found out my diet may have SERIOUS health implications.
There are several sites out there but they all seems to offer conflicting advice, I seem ok health wise (the only bad health points are itchy skin and memory loss) I now really want to know if I'm slowly poisoning myself with methylmercury as I'm classed as a high risk cancer person and have to get a mammogram once a year.
Even if this topic isn't worthy of a chat on the radio, can anyone help me?
Kindest regards, Ellie
PPS Chris, your knowledge absolutely astounds me, not only as you incredible from a medical point of view, but you also seem to know most of the stuff Dave does! Dave has a wonderful radio voice and presence and he is always a delight to listen to. As are all the team x


Helen: - Well, there is talk about various nasties that you might get in predatory fish like tuna from the open ocean - they will end up potentially having quite a high level of things like mercury in their flesh which is one reason why you're not recommended to eat it perhaps more than once a week. But there's various different levels on that. So there are things that end up in tuna, farmed salmon as well might have some various aspects of the way it was reared that's going to end up in it when you eat it, but actually, I think some of the more interesting things about what's bad about eating fish are things like pufferfish. They're great. You have to prepare those absolutely right. Otherwise a toxin in some of their organs called tetrodon toxin will actually knock you off and kill you.

The interesting thing is that people have worked out a way of farming these fish without any of this toxin anymore. So they're perfectly safe, but nobody wants to buy them. There is no market for safe puffer fish because it's all about the risk and the tingling of the lips when you just got a little bit of toxin, just to make you know that you're a macho fish eater, and that you're taking your life in your own hands, and trusting the chef, because it's all down to a very skillful removal of those innards that are otherwise deadly.

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