Food for thought, the benefits and risks of eating fish

6/12/2009 - By: Staff Report

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) and the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR) faculty will hold a public meeting June 24 on the risks and benefits of eating fish. The four-hour, free presentation begins at 1 p.m. in Room 422 of UNR’s Joe Crowley Student Union.

UNCE Nutrition Specialist Kerry Seymour will discuss the dietary benefits and risks of eating fish. Seymour will also review The American Heart Association’s recommendations for eating fish and compare them to fish consumption patterns of Nevadans determined by a public survey.

“Sometimes we see pretty scary headlines telling us to avoid fish because of mercury and other contaminants, but we should bear in mind that there are significant benefits to eating fish,” Seymour said. “Fish is a very healthy food and great for the heart. In general, two normal-sized servings of fish are recommended per week.”

Seymour said members of vulnerable groups—women who are pregnant or may become pregnant and small children—should avoid eating larger fish like shark, albacore and swordfish which can accumulate more mercury over a longer lifespan. That doesn’t mean the general population should cut fish from their diets altogether, but they should make wise choices, Seymour said.

In Nevada, fishermen are advised to catch and release fish from Lahontan Reservoir and the Carson River below Dayton due to elevated levels of mercury. Mercury in these fish is derived primarily from mining activity that occurred in the late 1800’s.

Patricia McCann, Research Scientist and Fish Program Manager with Minnesota Department of Health, will provide a national perspective on mercury and fish consumption.

Other specialists will present the results of investigations of mercury concentrations in water, sediments and fish in five reservoirs across northern Nevada. Mercury results from the erosion of natural mineral deposits, previous mining activity and deposition of atmospheric mercury. Water quality and use also influence whether a water body may be contaminated. Information presented may be useful for guiding watershed management practices that may reduce production of methyl mercury – the form that is found in fish.

UNCE and CABNR have partnered with the UNR Agricultural Experiment Station and Environmental Science Interdisciplinary Graduate Program to present this free discussion.

Space is limited, so preregister by June 17 by calling Colleen Lumpkin at (775) 784-4848.


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