High Seafood Diet Carries Risk of Forever Chemicals

A new study has underscored the importance of eating a varied diet.

It is so easy to default to making a few meals over and over again in a rotation. If you like them and they are healthy, it seems like there is no harm in a rut. But diets need variation for many reasons. Different foods offer many nutritional benefits, but they can come with their own drawbacks. Even healthy foods can cause problems when eaten too frequently.

We have shared a lot of different research on the benefits of seafood. Seafood is rich in omega-3s and vitamins, including vitamin D and B2. It's a great source of lean protein. Seafood can be a healthy way to make your diet more varied and help you fulfill all your nutritional needs. We have also shared many seafood recipes.

However, a new study found that overeating seafood can increase exposure to toxic “forever chemicals.” Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) come from industrial discharge, firefighting foam, household products and are linked to several cancers. They are synthetic compounds that contaminate water sources.

In seafood tested from a market, the shrimp and lobster had the highest levels of PFAS. Every fish they tested contained PFAS.

Most existing research focuses on PFAS levels in freshwater species, which are not what people primarily eat,” said corresponding author Megan Romano, an associate professor of epidemiology at Dartmouth College.

Our recommendation isn’t to not eat seafood — seafood is a great source of lean protein and omega fatty acids,” said Prof. Romano. “But it also is a potentially underestimated source of PFAS exposure in humans. Understanding this risk-benefit trade-off for seafood consumption is important for people making decisions about diet, especially for vulnerable populations such as pregnant people and children.”

The research was performed in New Hampshire. The researchers targeted New England as folks there eat more seafood than most places. Their survey found people eat 1.5 times more seafood there than most Americans.

From the results, researchers said that it appeared that things that live close to the coast and on the seafloor — like lobsters and shrimp — are exposed to the most PFAS. But fish from the deep sea, like tuna, are much safer.

They said there was no need to remove fish and seafood from a person’s diet, but it might be best to avoid daily shrimp. Choosing fish from the ocean as your go-to and keeping shrimp as a monthly option may be safer.

Kathryn Crawford, an assistant professor of environmental studies at Middlebury College, concluded, “People who eat a balanced diet with more typical, moderate amounts of seafood should be able to enjoy the health benefits of seafood without excessive risk of PFAS exposure.”

Banner image: Terje Sollie via Pexels

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