Researchers say that there is a major gap in how we are evaluating seafood for eating, by not considering simultaneously both nutrients and contaminants in the fish. After reviewing data from 10 studies regarding 63 fish species that took place over 20 years, Dartmouth College researchers have established a better understanding of what needs to be our focus. 

"The novelty of this paper is its broad scope, which includes human health outcomes and marine science as well as the discussion of both the risks and benefits of fish consumption," Celia Chen, senior author and a research professor at Dartmouth, said in a news release.  

Fish living in various bodies of water are subject to not only consuming healthful nutrients, but also harmful contaminants. This is particularly relevant to human consumers of seafood, because wild fishery and aquaculture production is expected to exceed that of beef, pork or poultry in the next decade, according to the release.

In their analysis of the data, the researchers looked at combinations of fish oils, mercury and selenium. In particular, they looked at the toxic form of mercury, methylmercury. They discovered that mercury and fatty acid concentrations varied greatly between and among fish species.

"The factors affecting marine fish may be altered by climate change impacts such as ocean warming and acidification, by increases in precipitation and nutrient loading and by changes in contaminant sources," Chen said in the release. "Together, these changes indicate a need for continued research on fish nutrients and contaminants in marine and biomedical science as well as ongoing communication between these disciplines." 

Chen is also a project leader in Dartmouth's Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program.

Their findings were recently published in the Journal of the Marine Biology Association of the United Kingdom. The researchers suggest that future studies of exposure to both fish contaminants and nutrients is necessary. 

A video explaining how mercury gets into seafood, can be found online

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