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While fish is considered a powerful part of the healthy Mediterranean diet, this type of meat has also been found to contain traces of mercury. Fortunately, some fish is higher in this element than others. But consuming too much of this neurotoxin could put a strain on your brain.
Considered a “major public health concern”, mercury naturally occurs in air, water and soil.
The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that even a small amount of this element could lead to “serious” health issues, including memory loss – the main sign of dementia.
The WHO also shares that people are mainly exposed to the compound when they eat fish and shellfish that contain mercury.
Hussain Abdeh, Superintendent Pharmacist from Medicine Direct, said: “Certain types of fish contain a high mercury content.
“Mercury is a neurotoxin that has been found to be a potential cause of cognitive decline in humans exposed to it, so it is possible that eating fish high in mercury could contribute to dementia.
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“You would need to be eating a great deal of high-mercury fish on a regular basis for this risk to be substantially raised.
“It is important to familiarise yourself with the types of fish that are high in mercury to avoid overconsumption.”
The link between mercury from fish consumption and dementia is also documented through research.
A study, published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, looked at a 91-year-old man diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
This subject had severely elevated mercury levels caused by consuming “high mercury containing” fish.
Although mercury is known to affect cognitive dysfunction and cause memory loss, the association between the compound and Alzheimer’s disease is still unclear.
However, the research suggests that mercury may play a role as a co-factor in the development of dementia.
Also experts, such as Dr Dale Bredesen, classified mercury as one of the “key contributors” to Alzheimer’s disease.
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In his recent book The End of Alzheimer’s Disease, the expert documented a number of cases similar to the study of the man who consumed too much mercury through fish.
However, currently, there’s not enough research to establish a firm link. Plus, not all fish has the same level of mercury.
Mr Abdeh said: “It should be noted that fish with a high mercury content are not the common varieties found in supermarkets and restaurants, such as salmon or sardines.
“Therefore, people should not avoid these types of fish as the likes of protein, omega-3, and fatty acids contained in them are invaluable to our health.
“Fish that are high in mercury tend to be saltwater predator fish, such as swordfish, shark, and king mackerel (not to be confused with regular mackerel, which is highly nutritious). Some freshwater fish contain mercury too.”
Fish has been also previously found to ward off dementia due to its omega-3 content.
The expert added: “Fish is one of the greatest dietary sources of omega-3, which has been researched and found to be a possible aid in preventing dementia.
“However, research into this has produced mixed results, meaning that omega-3 is not a proven nutrient in preventing dementia.
“Nonetheless, fish is called ‘brain food’ for a reason. Omega-3 is important for cognitive development, meaning that the likes of salmon, sardines, and mackerel are all beneficial for our brains.”
According to the expert, the symptoms of dementia to look out for include:
- Memory loss
- Concentration problems
- Mood changes (irritability, anxiousness, or apathy)
- Difficulty completing simple tasks (following an easy recipe).
“If you have regularly been eating fish known to be high in mercury and have started to exhibit these symptoms, you should speak to your GP,” Mr Abdeh added.
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