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Benefits versus risks associated with consumption of fish and other seafood.

The following article explores the benefits and risks of consuming fish.

Fish provide nutrition for much of the world’s population, and when not contaminated with chemicals, fish is a very good food. A major benefit of fish is that they are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), low in saturated fat, and they contain other critical nutrients. Much of the benefit of fish consumption derives from their high levels of long chain omega-3 PUFAs, which are produced by aquatic microorganisms and bioconcentrate in the aquatic food supply. The PUFAs are essential, in that humans and other vertebrates are not able to synthesize them and therefore must obtain them from the diet. The PUFAs particularly concentrate in the nervous system, alter immune system function reduce serum triglyceride levels and have been reported to reduce the risk of sudden death after a myocardial infarction. But the problem is that most fish have at least some degree of chemical contamination with methylmercury, (which binds to muscle) and/or with persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, chlorinated pesticides (which concentrate in fish fat). These chemicals have adverse effects on nervous system function, modulate the immune system, and are associated with elevations in risk of cardiovascular disease. Thus the question of benefits and risk from fish consumption is complex but very important.

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