Should you eat more omega-3-rich fish for a healthier heart, or avoid fish because of contaminants, such as mercury?

Dr. Donald Hensrud, who is chair of Mayo Clinic’s Division of Preventive Medicine has posted his thoughts on And, I found a useful link to safe seafood, state to state.

Dr. Hensrud is positive about fish. Based on the results of 2 large federally sponsored studies, he advises: “When it comes to a healthier heart, the benefits of eating fish usually outweigh the possible risks of exposure to contaminants.”

The main beneficial component appears to be omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish.

  • Improved cognitive (reasoning) function in developing children
  • Decreased triglycerides
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced blood clotting
  • Enhanced immune function
  • Reduced risk of stroke
  • Reduced risk of dying from heart disease

What about the risk of eating contaminated fish?

  • The main toxins in fish are mercury, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
  • Pregnant women, women who can become pregnant, and children are most susceptible to the potential effects of toxins in fish.
  • The amount of toxins depends on 3 things.
    • The type of fish
    • Where it’s caught
    • How much you eat

The bottom line?
The Environmental Protection Agency has a web page that links to state websites, which contain listings of local safe an unsafe fish to eat.

States set up their sites differently. But with a little browsing you should be able to find the most up-to-date information. For example, the state of Maine has a quick reference poster. Alaska offers a “Fish Consumption Calculator.”

10/6/08 11:17 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.