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Sunday, January 20, 2013

tuna + a can / atún + una lata

I love reading into subjects I find are not only important, but that also help me reafirm my position as far as the importance of eating fresh, local and organic. I tend to find myself against a rock and a hard place when people ask me about why i don´t feel right about feeding my family canned tuna (or anything canned for that matter). The thing is, up until recently, it had always been just that: my instincts telling me no. But then I would get these arguments shot back at me. "You shouldn´t deprive your children of tuna. Don´t be so drastic. Tuna is a lean protein, low in saturated fat. It´s a good source of selenium and one of the few foods that is naturally rich in vitamin D, and more importantly, tuna provides omega-3 essential fatty acids." Oh my. Time to start reading up on why canned tuna (or canned anything) just does NOT convince me, so that I can be sure that my decision is one taken froman informed place. So here is I what I found as far as canned foods in general goes:

 ...Maybe you´ve stopped using plastic water bottles and eating canned food. But if you haven’t yet made a change, or your vigilance has lessened, listen up: A new study implicates BPA as negatively affecting the health of not just those who ate BPA-laden food but also of four generations of their children. Considering that BPA is found in 90 percent of Americans’ blood, that’s a lot of children who could potentially be impacted by an innocent-seeming can of spaghetti and meatballs."
"The new study, published in the journal Endocrinology, examined the trans-generational effects of BPA on mice...some of the behavioral issues they saw in all generations of mice were similar to those seen in autistic children and children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. 'Autism is characterized by a reduction in social interactions and we observed some declines in social interaction in the BPA-exposed mice,' says Emilie F. Rissman, the study’s lead investigator and a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. (*1)

A new study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group found the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in over 50 percent of the name-brand canned goods tested. In some cases, a single serving was enough to expose a woman or infant to BPA levels that were 200 times higher than the government's safe level for industrial chemicals.

BPA is an industrially produced chemical commonly used in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. BPA-containing resins are a common ingredient in the linings of canned goods. (It) is a known estrogen mimicker, and can cause hormone-disrupting effects, toxicity or even neurotoxicity, low sperm counts and cancer. More than 200 animal studies show that BPA is toxic at very low doses, and the Centers for Disease Control explains that it has found BPA in 95 percent of patients being tested at levels that raise health concerns. The FDA estimates that 17% of the U.S. diet comes from canned food, but there is no government safety standard regulating the amount of BPA allowed in such foods. (*2)
Statements and opinions by Mike Adams, author of Grocery Warning: How to identify and avoid dangerous food ingredients

• It is worth noting that bisphenol-A is only found in processed, manufactured foods and packaging. Consuming fresh, raw produce avoids the ingestion of bisphenol-A.

• Food packaging that has long been considered "safe" by the FDA is now being found to be surprisingly hazardous to human health. As a general rule, the more fresh food you eat and the less processed, packaging food you eat, the lower your risk will be for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurological disorders and many other diseases. (*3)

Now lets talk about canned tuna (or fish in general). I will avoid repeating all the boo-boos related to canned foods and just go directly on to fish:
Tuna can ... be contaminated with mercury. Because canned tuna is so commonly consumed, it's the main source of mercury in people's diets.

Mercury exists in three forms: elemental or metallic mercury, inorganic mercury compounds and organic mercury compounds. Methylmercury, an organic mercury compound, is the type that accumulates in tuna and other fish. Fish higher up in the food chain, such as sharks, swordfish and tuna, have higher levels of mercury contamination because they absorb the mercury from the prey fish they consume. The effect that methylmercury exposure has on your health depends on several factors, including the dose, your age, the duration of exposure and your overall health.

Poisoning in Adults

Adults with mercury levels above the Environmental Protection Agency Reference Dose, which is the dose that's likely to be without appreciable risk, are often asymptomatic or have nonspecific symptoms. When symptoms do present, they can include changes in behavior, headaches, memory loss, visual field constriction, loss of fine motor control, unsteady movements, tingling or numbness of the extremities and lips and hair loss. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2002 found that subjects with 15 percent higher mercury levels than the controls had an increased risk of myocardial infarction.
Poisoning in Fetuses, Nursing Infants and Children
Fetuses, infants and children are at the most risk from the toxic effects of methylmercury. Methylmercury in a woman's body passes to the fetus and to a nursing infant through breast milk. Minamata disease can occur from prenatal exposure to high levels of methylmercury, with symptoms that include problems with speech, sucking and swallowing; blindness and deafness; excessive skeletal muscle tone; overresponsive reflexes; mental retardation and seizures. Lower levels of prenatal methylmercury exposure can cause decreased attention span, delayed learning and language acquisition, memory problems, and impaired motor control. Methylmercury poisoning in children can result in kidney damage and problems of the digestive and nervous systems. (*4)

One of the problems with mercury toxicity is that the symptoms are so general you could put them down to any number of things – like stress, or the flu, or allergies. The symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Changes in vision or hearing
  • Insomnia
  • Weakness
  • Memory problems
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increases in blood pressure or heart rate
  • Eye irritation
  • Irritability
  • Shyness
  • Nervousness
  • Breathing problems
  • Painful mouth
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Acrodynia – caused by chronic or long-term exposure to mercury. The symptoms for this include itching, swelling, flushing, pink colored palms, excessive perspiration, rashes irritability, fretfulness, sleeplessness, joint pain and weakness.
  • Some children may experience trouble learning in school
Having said all this, fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet because they contain good quality protein and essential nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids, and are low in saturated fats. As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States points out "nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern."

However, the FDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have posted information on mercury poisoning. They recommend that pregnant women, women of childbearing age, nursing mothers, and young children limit the amount of fish they eat, because of the danger of mercury poisoning. (*5)

I know, because it has happend to me, that reading this sort of thing can make one feel angry, bereft of options and maybe considering the posiblility of just looking the other way. That is definitely a choice one has to make. I, for one, after having passed the stage of frustration, prefer the "discomfort of knowing" than living with my eyes closed. We are actively looking for options. We´ve been blessed with a small piece of land, but big enough to be able to build a fish pond that can hold fish (carp and such). I´m not going to lie, sometimes making the "right" choice can make you feel like you´re taking the long, hard way around. But I´d feel like I were betraying myself if I became a slave of my own need for comfort and decided to give in to "normal". Just a thought.

*1 here, *2 here, *3 here, *4 here, *5 here
interesting article on canned tuna here

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