Researcher Maria Wennberg recommends the consumption of salmon two or three times a week. (Photo: Universidad Umea/T.Engoe/FIS)
Mercury and fatty acids, two opposite faces of fish
Tuesday, September 04, 2012, 02:30 (GMT + 9)
A team of researchers of Umea University in Sweden, found that the omega-3 fatty acids and the mercury found in fish have opposite effects on heart health.
The scientists conducted a study of more than 1,600 Swedish and Finnish males and determined that those with high levels of mercury in the body were more likely to suffer heart attacks while those recording a high concentration of omega-3 had a lower risk.
The results of this research were published last August in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study included the cases belonging to 361 men who had suffered from acute myocardial infarction from Sweden and 211 from Finland in the same situation.
Those men who participated in the study sent hair and blood samples for scientists to measure the levels of mercury and omega-3, and also provided information on their health and lifestyle.
According to the experts, the model used indicates that even a small change in fish consumption would make it likely to avoid 7 per cent of the heart attacks, despite a small increase in mercury exposure.
When asked by Reuters, researcher Maria Wennberg, of Umea University, admitted that during the study they could not explain the causes and effects.
Anyway, she stated: "Fish consumption can be recommended two or three times a week, being at least one of them fatty and non-predator [like salmon], and a predator fish intake not exceeding one a week."
Predatory fish -- such as shark and swordfish-- are in the top of the food chain and for that reason concentrate mercury from the environment in their tissue.
This heavy metal is toxic to the nervous system, so health officials are recommending that pregnant women and children should not eat these fish.
At present, the main conclusion reached by the researchers is that the risk of myocardial infarction can be reduced with the consumption of fish rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and with low methylmercury content.
By Analia Murias