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Study: Benefits Of Eating Fish Outweigh Risks

Study: Benefits Of Eating Fish Outweigh RisksDespite the risk of consuming contaminants, eating fish is good for your health, according to a recent report by a committee of nutrition experts, including Tufts’ Jose Ordovas.

Boston [11.06.06] A new report by the Institute of Medicine contains good news for seafood lovers: the nutritional benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks of consuming contaminants such as mercury. Eating fish in moderation, according to a committee of nutrition experts, including Tufts’Jose Ordovas, is good for your health.

“People should not be scared about eating seafood,” Ordovas, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at Tufts’Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) told the Associated Press.

Ordovas, who is also a professor of nutrition and genetics at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts, was one of 14 members of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Nutrient Relationships in Seafood. The group was charged with analyzing scientific evidence on seafood’s health benefits and risks and making recommendations about how to present that information to consumers in a clear and balanced way.

"Our goal was to put both things in perspective and see where is the balance," Ordovas told the Associated Press.

The nonprofit Institute of Medicine—part of the National Academies—conducted the study at the request of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. The organization was concerned that “consumers were confused about how much and what kind of fish they should eat,” The New York Times reported.

"The confusion may have scared people out of eating something that is beneficial for them and maybe for their offspring," Ordovas told the AP.

According to the report, which lays out specific guidelines for different age and health-risk groups, eating seafood may reduce people’s overall risk for developing heart disease. While a review article by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health released on the same day said that eating fish reduces the risk of coronary death by 36 percent, Ordovas and the other members of the committee questioned that statistic.

He told The New York Times that the figure “is based on circumstantial evidence that does not provide definite proof.” The Institute of Medicine report called for more research in this area.

The Institute of Medicine report also found that, for pregnant women, the omega-3 fatty acids that are found in many types of fish can lengthen pregnancies and aid in vision and cognitive development in infants.

But pregnant women must also make careful choices about fish consumption, according to the report, which reinforced recommendations that women who are expecting a child or planning to become pregnant should avoid eating too much albacore tuna or predatory fish—such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish—that can contain mercury. For pregnant women, exposure to mercury can impact fetal development. The report noted that the same guidelines applied to children under 12.

Other consumers should make smart decisions about fish consumption, as well. According to the report, the key is to enjoy a variety of fish in moderation. Two servings of different kinds of fish each week, Ordovas told the AP, is a good amount.

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