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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Fish study looks into too much consumption

    Many may have heard that eating fish is healthy, but a survey is being done at Stony Brook University that might show otherwise.

    The initial reason for the study was because of an observation that people who ate a lot of fish were having heart problems. Some fish consumption may lead to a higher level of mercury in the bloodstream.

    “It might turn out it’s very rare health effects, or, less rare,” said Jaymeie Meliker, an assistant professor in the Graduate Program in Public Health of the Department of Preventive Medicine. The study will look into the question of “do we need to recraft our public health message or are we okay right now?”

    The study is being funded by The Gelfond Fund for Mercury Research and Outreach. which supports research looking into understanding mercury cycles and how they cause health effects.

    Meliker said the study will analyze seafood consumption from different aspects, and by studying the intake of seafood.

    The participants will have to come to Stony Brook to do the research, as the Gelfond Fund for Mercury Research and Outreach supports research done at Stony Brook.

    Research of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids will be done, alongside the research of levels of mercury and selenium.

    Meliker said omega-3 is even considered healthy for the brain.

    The study will be done on people who eat a lot of fish, but they must be non-pregnant adults.

    According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website, fish and shellfish have protein and other nutrients that are good for a healthy diet. The website indicates, however, that “nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern. Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system.”

    A 2007 New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene study showed 25 percent of adults in New York City — nearly 50 percent of Asian New Yorkers — “are estimated to have blood mercury levels that exceeded recommended levels for pregnant women.”

    All fish contain methylmercury, which is a natural product in aquatic systems that is neurotoxic in developing fetuses and a cause to illnesses for adults.

    Some larger, older fish contain higher levels of mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

    According to the FDA, the effects differ based on what type of fish and how much fish is consumed, as well as the level of mercury in the fish that were consumed.

    “Seafood, in general, is good for us, but with some types of fish having high levels of methylmercury, it is important for the public health community to better understand risks and benefits from eating specific fish,” Meliker said in a press release. “We hope the study results will help us to better communicate dietary recommendations to the public regarding the consumption of fish.”

    According to Meliker, “from a cynical perspective, we shouldn’t be studying anything that hurts or harms.” He said some people have the mentality, “let us live our lives.”

    But once contaminants are identified, there is a possibility to “improve the outcome for health and quality of life for large segments of population.”

    The “Long Island Study of Seafood Consumption” screening questionnaire can be found online. The first question is “do you ever eat fish or seafood?” The questionnaire is meant to determine if a participant is eligible to be in the study.

    “In general, one study is not likely to have a tremendous impact,” Meliker said. But if in time it turns out some types of fish are more dangerous to consume than others, “that has potential to infliuence whether or not the FDA should allow those.”

    He plans on recruiting the study’s participants in a year’s time, ending next fall. The study will include drawing blood, mesuring heart rates, computerized exams and assessing reflexes.

    Meliker plans to do the study objectively – not going in focusing on the positives or negatives of consuming fish.

    According to the assistant professor, the outcome of this study may show that consuming a lot of fish is a bad thing, or it might show that it is a good thing.

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