* Mercury in fish July 28 2012

If you prefer obtaining Omega-3 from diet. EPA and DHA from fish vs. Mercury

Different national and international health authorities recommend daily intake between of 500 mg and 2,000 mg (2 g) Omega-3 fatty acids per day. For example, the American Heart Association recommends that people without documented Coronary Heart Disease eat a variety of fish, preferably oily, at least twice weekly, which should provide the recommended amount of EPA and DHA. Thus, frequent consumption of certain fish species would provide enough EPA and DHA for a healthy adult to not require any additional Omega-3 supplementation.

However, the situation is complicated by the modern levels of mercury contamination in nature; when consumed, mercury acts as a neurotoxin; it can damage the brain and nervous system. Despite numerous health benefits of fish, including those stemming from the Omega-3 fatty acids in it, high levels of mercury in some fish species are making it inadvisable to consume those fish on a daily basis.

 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that it is safe to consume up to 0.136 micrograms of mercury per pound of body weight per day (0.3 mcg per kg of body weight). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends limiting mercury consumption to even lower amount of 0.045 mcg per pound of weight (0.1 mcg of mercury per day per 1 kg of body weight). So according to the more conservative limits by EPA, a person of 150 pounds should not be consuming more than 6.8 microgram of mercury per day or 48 mcg per week. 

Compiled below is the analysis of the EPA and DHA per 6 oz. serving of fish along with the average amount of mercury that is consumed with those 6 oz. of fish. Sources of raw data: US Department of Health and Human Services and FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The fish is sorted by the highest levels of EPA and DHA.

The analysis shows that sufficient EPA and DHA can only be safely obtained by consuming wild caught salmon, sardine, pollock, anchovy, flounder, catfish and some shellfish (see table 1 below).

The results of the analysis are broken down into 3 tables.

* Table 1 shows fish and shellfish species, sorted by the provided EPA+DHA, that have less than 6.8 mcg of Mercury per 6 oz. serving and are therefore safe to eat on a daily basis

* Table 2 shows fish and shellfish species, sorted by the provided EPA+DHA, that contain between 6.8 mcg and 30 mcg of Mercury per 6 oz. serving and should be consumed no more than once a week. 

* Table 3 shows fish and shellfish species, sorted by the provided EPA+DHA, that contain more than 30 mcg of Mercury per 6 oz. serving. We rated as "H" (high)  species with 31 to 85 mcg per 6 oz. serving (can be consumed once or twice a month); and "VH" - with more than 85 mcg per 6 oz. serving (better to avoid all together).

Table 1. EPA, DHA and Mercury in fish safe for daily consumption

* Note that farmed salmon may be high in PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, another group of dangerous contaminants known to cause reproductive issues and cancer) 

Table 2. EPA, DHA and Mercury in fish with more than 6.8 mcg and less than 30 mcg of Mercury per 6 oz. serving

Table 3. EPA, DHA and Mercury in fish with more than 30 mcg of Mercury per 6 oz. serving

 

Note: if you would like to paste the data in Excel and perform your own analysis, the data in the format suitable for copying is available at the bottom of the page

 

EPA, DHA and Mercury content data sources:

1. http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/product-specificinformation/seafood/foodbornepathogenscontaminants/methylmercury/ucm115644.htm 

2. http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/report/html/table_g2_adda2.htm

 

Appendix: Data on EPA, DHA, and Mercury in fish and shellfish species, in a format that can be copied. Within each category (low, medium, and high levels of Mercury), data is sorted in the descending order by EPA and DHA content

 

Fish Species and Description DHA    
mg per 100 g
EPA
mg per 100 g
DHA+EPA mg per 100 g DHA+EPA mg per 180 g (6 oz.) Avg Mercury mcg per 6   oz Contamination Rating
Salmon*, Atlantic, Farmed, Cooked 1457 690 2147 3865 4.0 Low
Anchovy, European, Canned In Oil 1292 763 2055 3699 3.1 Low
Salmon*, Atlantic, Wild, Cooked 1429 411 1840 3312 4.0 Low
Salmon*, Chinook, Cooked 727 1010 1737 3127 4.0 Low
Anchovy, European, Raw 911 538 1449 2608 3.1 Low
Oyster, Pacific, Cooked 500 876 1376 2477 2.2 Low
Salmon*, Pink, Cooked 751 537 1288 2318 4.0 Low
Salmon*, Coho, Farmed, Cooked 871 408 1279 2302 4.0 Low
Salmon*, Sockeye, Cooked 700 530 1230 2214 4.0 Low
Salmon*, Chum, Drained Solids With Bone 702 473 1175 2115 4.0 Low
Salmon*, Coho, Wild, Cooked 658 401 1059 1906 4.0 Low
Sardine, Atlantic, Canned In Oil 509 473 982 1768 2.4 Low
Salmon*, Chum, Cooked 505 299 804 1447 4.00 Low
Pollock, Atlantic, Cooked 451 91 542 976 5.64 Low
Flatfish (Flounder And Sole Species), Cooked 258 243 501 902 2.18 Low
Shrimp, Mixed Species, Cooked 144 171 315 567 1.64 Low
Clam, Mixed Species, Cooked 146 138 284 511 1.64 Low
Catfish, Channel, Wild, Cooked 137 100 237 427 4.55 Low
Scallop, Mixed Species, Fried 103 86 189 340 0.55 Low
Catfish, Channel, Farmed, Cooked 128 49 177 319 4.55 Low
Fish Species and Description DHA
mg per 100 g
EPA
mg per 100 g
DHA+EPA
mg per 100 g
DHA+EPA mg per 180 g (6 oz.) Avg Mercury mcg per 6 oz Contamination Rating
Shad, American, Raw 1321 1086 2407 4333 8.2 Medium
Mullet, Striped, Cooked 148 180 328 590 9.1 Medium
Whiting, Mixed Species, Cooked 235 283 518 932 9.3 Medium
Haddock, Cooked 162 76 238 428 10.0 Medium
Crab, Queen, Cooked 145 332 477 859 11.8 Medium
Crab, Blue, Cooked 231 243 474 853 11.8 Medium
Crab, Alaska King, Cooked 118 295 413 743 11.8 Medium
Crab, Dungeness, Cooked 113 281 394 709 11.8 Medium
Croaker, Atlantic, Raw 97 123 220 396 11.8 Medium
Trout, cooked 820 334 1154 2077 12.9 Medium
Trout, Rainbow, Wild, Cooked 520 468 988 1778 12.9 Medium
Trout, Mixed Species, Cooked 677 259 936 1685 12.9 Medium
Smelt, Rainbow, Cooked 536 353 889 1600 14.7 Medium
Herring, Atlantic, Kippered 1179 970 2149 3868 15.3 Medium
Herring, Pacific, Cooked 883 1242 2125 3825 15.3 Medium
Herring, Atlantic, Cooked 1105 909 2014 3625 15.3 Medium
Mackerel, Pacific (Chub), Cooked 1195 653 1848 3326 16.0 Medium
Whitefish, mixed Species, Cooked 1206 406 1612 2902 16.2 Medium
Spiny Lobster, Cooked 139 341 480 864 16.9 Medium
Sheepshead, Cooked 107 83 190 342 16.9 Medium
Lobster, Northern, Cooked 31 53 84 151 19.5 Medium
Carp, Cooked 146 305 451 812 20.0 Medium
Cod, Pacific, Cooked 173 103 276 497 20.2 Medium
Lingcod, Cooked 130 133 263 473 20.2 Medium
Cod, Atlantic, Cooked 154 4 158 284 20.2 Medium
Ocean Perch, Atlantic, Cooked 271 103 374 673 22.0 Medium
Tuna, White, Canned In Water 629 233 862 1552 23.3 Medium
Tuna, Light, Canned In Water, Drained Solids 223 47 270 486 23.3 Medium
Tuna, Light, Canned In Oil, Drained Solids 101 27 128 230 23.3 Medium
Tilefish, cooked - Atlantic 733 172 905 1629 26.2 Medium
Tuna, Skipjack, Fresh, Cooked 237 91 328 590 26.2 Medium
Bass, Striped, Cooked 750 217 967 1741 27.7 Medium
Fish Species and Description DHA
mg per 100 g
EPA
mg per 100 g
DHA+EPA
mg per 100 g
DHA+EPA mg per 180 g (6 oz.) Avg Mercury mcg per 6 oz Contamination Rating
Snapper, Mixed Species, Cooked 273 48 321 578 30.2 High
Mackerel, Atlantic, Cooked 699 504 1203 2165 33.1 High
Sea Trout, Mixed Species, Cooked 265 211 476 857 42.8 High
Halibut, Greenland, Cooked 504 674 1178 2120 43.9 High
Halibut, Atlantic And Pacific, Cooked 374 91 465 837 43.9 High
Sea Bass, Mixed Species, Cooked 556 206 762 1372 64.4 High
Tuna, Yellowfin, Fresh, Cooked 232 47 279 502 64.4 High
Sablefish, smoked 945 891 1836 3305 65.7 High
Sablefish, cooked 920 867 1787 3217 65.7 High
Bluefish, cooked 665 323 988 1778 67.0 High
Grouper, Mixed Species, Cooked 213 35 248 446 81.5 High
Mackerel, Spanish, Cooked 952 294 1246 2243 82.6 High
Roughy, Orange, Raw N/a N/a 29 52 103.9 Very High
Tuna, Fresh, Bluefin And Bigeye, Cooked 1141 363 1504 2707 125.4 Very High
Mackerel, King, Cooked 227 174 401 722 132.9 Very High
Shark, Mixed Species, Raw 527 316 843 1517 178.2 Very High
Swordfish, cooked 681 138 819 1474 181.1 Very High
Tilefish, cooked - Gulf Of Mexico 733 172 905 1629 263.9 Very High