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Mercury in sardines of concern?

by (393)
Updated about 10 hours ago
Created February 28, 2011 at 10:09 PM

I heard that sardines are lower on mercury because they are lower in the food chain. But let's say I eat 250g of Atlantic Portuguese sardines per day, every day. Am I getting more than the daily allowable limit for mercury?

0352d9b69cc6e3a17a634c74ae92566f
0 · March 09, 2014 at 6:35 AM

Im a student at Milwaukees school of freshwater science and a research scientist studying the effects of mercury found that selenium prevents some of the toxic effects of mercury, but not all. It won't do a thing at all against some of the effects according to the study. I just cant remember which ones. It does however do a good job preventing the others. (I can't find any paper on it, so I wont say it's a fact, just something to consider)

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f
11581 · May 31, 2012 at 5:35 PM

Salmon is pretty safe on mercury levels. What matter is what the fish eats whether it's diet contains mercury, and its level in the food chain, not it actual size. Although many larger fish are high level, not all are. Salmon are rated either as a Best Choice or Good Alternative except for Atlantic or farmed salmon. While most salmon are carnivorous, they typically eat small animals in non=polluted areas. Salmon don't survive well in pollution, like their trout relatives. Sockeye salmon eat zooplankton. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_factsheet.aspx?fid=40

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f
11581 · May 31, 2012 at 5:25 PM

Salmon is pretty safe on mercury levels. What matter is what the fish eats and its level in the food chain, not it actual size. Although many larger fish are high level, not all are. Salmon are rated either as a Best Choice or Good Alternative http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_regional.aspx

8f08fb03fc5c2f44b7d5357e8a3ab1c5
393 · March 01, 2011 at 6:29 PM

Much appreciated.

Medium avatar
12369 · March 01, 2011 at 4:55 PM

Here's a link to a paper - the abstarct seems to indicate that there is mercury in plants, and that spinach leaves and radish tubers contained the highest concentrations of mercury. http://www.springerlink.com/content/t044565249076260/

Medium avatar
12369 · March 01, 2011 at 2:11 AM

good question - i am going to look into it and get back to you soon!

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581
4896 · March 01, 2011 at 12:50 AM

salmon is much bigger, sardines are tiny. Generally small fish, like herring, sardines, sprats and similar are not only healthier, but also much less damaging to the environment.

8f08fb03fc5c2f44b7d5357e8a3ab1c5
393 · February 28, 2011 at 11:40 PM

I am reassured now that I know sardines eat plankton. I think I might cook some right now!

8f08fb03fc5c2f44b7d5357e8a3ab1c5
393 · February 28, 2011 at 11:37 PM

Good to know. Any clue on whether we get much mercury from green veggies, beans, or nuts?

8f08fb03fc5c2f44b7d5357e8a3ab1c5
393 · February 28, 2011 at 11:33 PM

I don't eat them from cans.

5f0158c23fcb5636e57b4ce097784da0
1386 · February 28, 2011 at 11:27 PM

what's wrong with salmon? they are just as low as sardines.

Medium avatar
39841 · February 28, 2011 at 10:13 PM

The BPAs in the cans would be a far greater concern.

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10 Answers

best answer

Medium avatar
6
12369 · February 28, 2011 at 11:10 PM

Mercury bioaccumulates through trophic levels. Sardines are low on the food chain - so their consumption is safe. Here is a link to a website that has a calculator to see how much mercury you are getting from your fish:

http://www.gotmercury.org/article.php?list=type&type=75

Assuming that you are 150lbs (just a random number) and the 250g = 8.82 oz, you are getting 8% of your daily allowable intake of mercury.

And just to explain what a daily allowable intake is - it is the maximum amount of mercury that a human can ingest without any observable effect reported. Please note that most of the toxicological studies done have been on rats though, so err on the side of caution!

Please remember to add up each type of fish that you are eating though!

Medium avatar
12369 · March 01, 2011 at 2:11 AM

good question - i am going to look into it and get back to you soon!

8f08fb03fc5c2f44b7d5357e8a3ab1c5
393 · March 01, 2011 at 6:29 PM

Much appreciated.

8f08fb03fc5c2f44b7d5357e8a3ab1c5
393 · February 28, 2011 at 11:37 PM

Good to know. Any clue on whether we get much mercury from green veggies, beans, or nuts?

Medium avatar
12369 · March 01, 2011 at 4:55 PM

Here's a link to a paper - the abstarct seems to indicate that there is mercury in plants, and that spinach leaves and radish tubers contained the highest concentrations of mercury. http://www.springerlink.com/content/t044565249076260/

F9a0b72f38860d7601afd5a45bb53394
3
3618 · February 28, 2011 at 10:37 PM

It's impossible to say what you're getting in mercury unless you test every single batch of fish you eat. But here's what you've got in your favor:

  1. The fish you're eating are lower on the food chain and
  2. You're an adult. Adults are better at processing mercury than kids are (pregnant women are advised to cut back on predator fish consumption because, well, they're carrying kids).

If you're not eating tons and tons of tuna or salmon or swordfish, if you're not going around handling free mercury from a broken thermometer or something, and if you otherwise try to avoid mercury as much as possible, you should be OK.

Here is more information about the fish family sardines belong to. They eat plankton, pretty much.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581
4896 · March 01, 2011 at 12:50 AM

salmon is much bigger, sardines are tiny. Generally small fish, like herring, sardines, sprats and similar are not only healthier, but also much less damaging to the environment.

8f08fb03fc5c2f44b7d5357e8a3ab1c5
393 · February 28, 2011 at 11:40 PM

I am reassured now that I know sardines eat plankton. I think I might cook some right now!

5f0158c23fcb5636e57b4ce097784da0
1386 · February 28, 2011 at 11:27 PM

what's wrong with salmon? they are just as low as sardines.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f
11581 · May 31, 2012 at 5:25 PM

Salmon is pretty safe on mercury levels. What matter is what the fish eats and its level in the food chain, not it actual size. Although many larger fish are high level, not all are. Salmon are rated either as a Best Choice or Good Alternative http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_regional.aspx

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f
11581 · May 31, 2012 at 5:35 PM

Salmon is pretty safe on mercury levels. What matter is what the fish eats whether it's diet contains mercury, and its level in the food chain, not it actual size. Although many larger fish are high level, not all are. Salmon are rated either as a Best Choice or Good Alternative except for Atlantic or farmed salmon. While most salmon are carnivorous, they typically eat small animals in non=polluted areas. Salmon don't survive well in pollution, like their trout relatives. Sockeye salmon eat zooplankton. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_factsheet.aspx?fid=40

3d0093dd591d9b88db74d7bba970dea0
1
222 · February 11, 2013 at 11:42 PM

Relevant: http://chriskresser.com/is-eating-fish-safe-a-lot-safer-than-not-eating-fish

How selenium keeps you safe from mercury toxicity in most fish.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f
1
8014 · May 31, 2012 at 4:25 PM

As has already been pointed out, sardines are relatively low on the marine food chain and don't accumulate as much mercury as predatory fish.

If you're concerned though, take a little selenium now and then. Selenium has been shown to be protective against mercury. (Yummiest way to very easily get some? Brazil nuts!)

I don't have a link to the studies handy at the moment, but I read a few in a graduate level course on vitamins and minerals. It's the real deal.

0352d9b69cc6e3a17a634c74ae92566f
0 · March 09, 2014 at 6:35 AM

Im a student at Milwaukees school of freshwater science and a research scientist studying the effects of mercury found that selenium prevents some of the toxic effects of mercury, but not all. It won't do a thing at all against some of the effects according to the study. I just cant remember which ones. It does however do a good job preventing the others. (I can't find any paper on it, so I wont say it's a fact, just something to consider)

Af49bced416926d9f88e47a7e705d99d
1
20 · May 31, 2012 at 12:24 PM

i don't think bpa free is necessarily much better than a can with bpa. who knows what else is in the can, which is highly heated with the sardines inside. sigh, i wish i could have canned sardines as an easy fix but there are just too many things about it that are unhealthy it seems. we can't get them fresh around here.

0352d9b69cc6e3a17a634c74ae92566f
0
0 · March 09, 2014 at 6:45 AM

Im a student at Milwaukees school of freshwater science and a research scientist studying the effects of mercury found that selenium prevents some of the toxic effects of mercury, but not all. It won't do a thing at all against some of the effects according to the study. I just cant remember which effects...woops. It does however do a good job preventing the others. (I can't find the paper on it, so I wont say it's a fact, just something to consider). I'm assuming sardines are fine regardless, because I like to eeeat um and their itty bitty. In addition to being low on the food chain they have a relatively short life span and less time to accumulate toxins. Other thing to consider about mercury is with the current understandings most of the concern is with effects on unborn and young children. If you plan of having kids it may be appropriate to consider long before mercury can accumulate in fats if you eat it too often

0352d9b69cc6e3a17a634c74ae92566f
0
0 · March 09, 2014 at 6:45 AM

Im a student at Milwaukees school of freshwater science and a research scientist studying the effects of mercury found that selenium prevents some of the toxic effects of mercury, but not all. It won't do a thing at all against some of the effects according to the study. I just cant remember which effects...woops. It does however do a good job preventing the others. (I can't find the paper on it, so I wont say it's a fact, just something to consider). I'm assuming sardines are fine regardless, because I like to eeeat um and their itty bitty. In addition to being low on the food chain they have a relatively short life span and less time to accumulate toxins. Other thing to consider about mercury is with the current understandings most of the concern is with effects on unborn and young children. If you plan of having kids it may be appropriate to consider long before mercury can accumulate in fats if you eat it too often

0352d9b69cc6e3a17a634c74ae92566f
0
0 · March 09, 2014 at 6:45 AM

Im a student at Milwaukees school of freshwater science and a research scientist studying the effects of mercury found that selenium prevents some of the toxic effects of mercury, but not all. Some research has found that selenium does not prevent the learning and behavioral toxic effects in zebra fish caused by mercury. Granted the study I'm referencing was studying zebrafish not humans. I personally wouldn't eat tuna more than recommended and count on wild rice to counter act everything if I was a woman planning on having kids any time soon. These are research findings and that doesn't make it fact, but something to consider. Sardines however are at the bottom of the food chain and have relatively short lifespans, so less time to accumulate toxins. I think they're a great fish to eat.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ntt.2009.09.004
paper

266a0bde80c6dd7cf67939153241a19f
0
0 · February 11, 2013 at 9:41 PM

Consuming seaweeds or cilantro with fish aids in mercury detoxification.

Medium avatar
0
39841 · February 28, 2011 at 10:13 PM

I would think that the BPA contained in the cans would be a far greater concern. Wild Planet has BPA-free cans, however.

8f08fb03fc5c2f44b7d5357e8a3ab1c5
393 · February 28, 2011 at 11:33 PM

I don't eat them from cans.

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