Carvings September 15, 2022

In the news

Pregnant? It’s OK to eat  fish now.

            For more than 20 years pregnant women have been advised to limit their fish intake because of the possibility of mercury contamination. In the fetus and young infant, relatively low levels of mercury that would have no deleterious effect on the adult brain can injure the brain that is rapidly growing. The CDC specifically has mentioned the risk of larger fish such as tuna, shark and tilefish because mercury accumulates up the food chain.

            A new report suggests that such advice is unnecessary because previous data were flawed. In one study the high mercury levels attributed to fish were actually due to the ingestion of pilot whale meat. I can’t explain that kind of confusion among scientists but equally puzzling was the report concerning children in the Seychelles, whose fish intake was very high, whose mothers had abnormally high levels of mercury within their blood, but whose intellectual function was entirely normal. In fact, those children were re-evaluated at ages 5, 17 and 19 and continued to show no adverse effects from exposure to fish that might have high levels of mercury. That didn’t seem to matter to the CDC.

            Fish is a highly beneficial food with its abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and protein, all of which contribute to healthy brain development. Some scientists postulate that any adverse effects of mercury in fish consumed by a pregnant woman are offset by its anti-inflammatory nutrients, namely omega-3 fatty acids.

            The bottom line: everyone, including women who are pregnant, should enjoy two or three servings of fish every week. Wild-caught fish is better than farmed, but that is a topic for another blog. (And no, Virginia, fish sticks have no nutritional value.)

Lifestyle

            Nag, nag, nag. But here’s another reason for you to do strength-training exercises with moderate intensity at least 3 or 4 times a week: you will add several HEALTHY years to your lifespan. Japanese researchers found that persons who engaged in muscle-strengthening exercises had a lower risk of dying during the study period, a 17% lower risk of heart disease, were 12% less likely to develop cancer and were 17% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Being stronger means not having to use a cane or walker and being much more resistant to falls. And something that really matters to most of us – exercise delays the onset of dementia, possibly by several years.

            Some good news – it doesn’t take a gym membership to get these benefits. A couple of dumbbells or elastic bands will do.

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