Your Sushi Habit Might Be Making You Sick

woman feeling sick

You've probably been hearing for a while now about how fish is great for you, yes? How it's a nutritional powerhouse and good for your brain and you should have it several times a week, blah blah blah. Well, hold up on the sushi platter, sister. A new study from the University of Michigan is linking even low doses of mercury (yeah, like low doses of mercury found in fish) with autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

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Mercury is a naturally occurring metal that enters the environment and can accumulate in the tissue of fish or shellfish. So when you eventually dine on that fish, well, you're getting a side order of a natural toxin.

And "Mad Hatter" in Alice in Wonderland aside, what large doses of mercury do to the body is not pleasant. High levels can cause brain and kidney damage, fertility problems, and heart disease. If you're pregnant, mercury can cause developmental problems in your unborn baby and, in severe cases, even mental retardation, cerebral palsy, blindness, and deafness.

Bigger fish like swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish are notoriously high in mercury, so the FDA has warned people to scale back consumption and pregnant women to avoid completely. Instead, they've recommended eating low-mercury fish like light canned tuna, shrimp, and salmon.

But when researchers from the University of Michigan recently assessed blood and hair samples of over 1,300 women of childbearing age, they found that the higher levels of mercury they had in their bodies, the more autoantibodies they also had. (Autoantibodies are made when your body's immune system can't figure out the difference between healthy tissues and potential threats.)

And even low doses of mercury generally considered safe caused this reaction.

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Having increased autoantibodies ups your risk of developing an autoimmune disorder like lupus, RA, or MS, which is scary business. Fifty million Americans already suffer from an autoimmune disorder, 75 percent of whom are women.

So, not surprisingly, the study's lead researcher suggested women should keep an eye on their seafood consumption. We say: skip the sashimi and have a PB&J instead, at least until scientists discover something scary about that.

Do you plan to cut back on the amount of fish you eat?

 

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