How Much Fish Is Too Much?

Fish consumption guidelines released by FDA and EPA

(RxWiki News) A fear of mercury may be driving lower fish consumption, but that could be keeping some groups from getting important nutrients and protein from fish.

That's why the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) teamed up to release new fish consumption advice. 

Recent FDA data suggests that 50 percent of pregnant women consume less than 2 ounces of fish a week. That's well under the recommended 8 to 12 ounces. Fish contains protein and other nutrients good for women who are or may become pregnant, women who are breastfeeding and young children.

This low fish intake is thought to be driven by the fear of mercury levels in fish, according to the FDA. All fish have at least trace amounts of mercury. Mercury in excess, or exposure to it for long periods of time, can cause harm to the brain and nervous system.

But some of the fear of mercury in fish may be overblown — 90 percent of the fish eaten in the US contains low amounts of mercury, according to the FDA.

To help increase fish intake, the FDA and EPA developed a chart. The chart places more than 60 types of fish into three groups: best choices, good choices and fish to avoid.

The agencies recommend eating "best choices" two or three times per week, "good choices" once a week and not eating any fish on the "fish to avoid" list. Some fish considered to be “best choices” with lower mercury levels include shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod.

Seven types of fish typically have higher mercury levels and should be avoided, according to the FDA. These include tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, orange roughy, bigeye tuna, marlin and king mackerel.

Talk to your doctor about how much fish is healthy for you to eat.