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Fish Intake is Healthy Despite Risk of Contaminants

Eating one or two servings weekly may reduce cardiac death risk 36 percent

TUESDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The health benefits of seafood consumption outweigh the risk of contaminants contained in some fish, but young women and nursing mothers should limit themselves to two weekly servings of certain species only, researchers report in the Oct. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). A separate report from the Institute of Medicine was also released Tuesday in an effort to help consumers sort through information on the risks and benefits of seafood consumption.

In the JAMA study, Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and a colleague analyzed studies assessing health problems and polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins in fish; fish and fish oil consumption and methylmercury, neurological and cardiovascular health.

The researchers found that eating one or two weekly fish servings, especially fish containing more omega-3 fatty acids -- eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid -- cut overall death risk 17 percent and coronary mortality risk 36 percent, and caused other health improvements.

"For major health outcomes among adults, based on both the strength of the evidence and the potential magnitudes of effect, the benefits of fish intake exceed the potential risks," the authors write. "For women of childbearing age, benefits of modest fish intake, excepting a few selected species, also outweigh risks."

Pregnant or breast-feeding women should avoid eating predatory fish with long life spans, such as swordfish, shark and tilefish, according to the Institute of Medicine report, which was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"Consumers need better guidance on making seafood choices," said Malden C. Nesheim, of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and chair of the committee that wrote the report, in a statement.

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