I seem to be on a health kick lately. Partly it is because I'm fighting a parasite that hitched a ride home with me from India. Partly it is a defensive maneuver to shore up my spirits. I'm reading a great deal about how mercury affects our bodies, and it is depressing that anyone in their right mind could justify letting it spew into the air--as it does from unregulated coal-fired power plants. The state where my first son was born, Texas, has seven of the worst offenders in the country.

I stopped eating most fish a while ago. I got confused every time I went to the market and tried to figure out what was on the endangered list, what was over fished--and what was toxic. Too much mercury in the fish.

Tuna, swordfish, grouper, orange roughy, halibut, and Atlantic salmon have been identified as having high levels of mercury in them. (Wild Alaskan salmon is relatively clean.) Many farm-raised fish are no better--they're fed tons of fish that contain mercury.

As always, the burden is on us. The consumer is supposed to figure out where the mercury is, what was made with BPA, which thing has lead in it....Come on!

Of course there is a simple solution: Stop the coal plants from spewing mercury into the air in the first place. That way, the air won't carry it to the water, the fish won't eat it--and neither will we.

While we're waiting for coal plant owners and pollution-supporting lobbyists and politicians to see the light, many of us have cut back our fish consumption. There's nothing like sitting in a room full of scientists who really know their stuff to make you get real serious, and fast, about what you're eating.

But we need those Omega-3 fatty acids; they reduce inflammation and they're important for cognitive function--like memory. Pregnant women especially need omega 3s for their babies' healthy development.

So we take fish oil pills. But I recently learned--sitting in meetings with toxicologists--that fish oil pills, if they are simply made of extracted oils, are giving you mercury in concentrated form. Fish oil pills should be molecularly distilled; labels should state that the product is mercury free.

I was so stunned by this information that I wanted to share it as soon as I could.

You can also, by the way, get your omegas from flax, chia, or hemp seeds. If you are eating fish, EDF has a good guide to help you choose what to buy.


Anonymous said...

But, but, but...Dr. Perricone advises we eat a lot of salmon. Only wild Alaskan salmon?

Love your blog, by the way!

karensandburg said...

i have 1/4 cup of walnuts a day for my omega 3's. great source of omega 3's.

quintessence said...

Ok I've been meaning to add these to the list - but which are the good omega-3 pills? I have to say that I don't know what to eat any more. It reminds me of every time I was pregnant, Pat added more no-nos to the list until there were so few choices left I didn't even have to worry about weight gain!

mytwocentsworth said...

I'd be glad to recommend your readers go to www.xtend-life.com for their Omega 3's, easily ordered on line--direct from NZ. Molecularly distilled; from the Hoki, a deep-water fish harvested from the cold, pristine waters of the Southern Ocean of New Zealand.

Leslie Bacon said...

First, I live in London --- you need the The Hospital for Tropical Diseases here.... specializes in travel related disease. (The Brits have been going to (ok, colonizing)India and other Asia spots for centuries -- very good with the problems you mention.
Then, if your worried about mercury in fish, take a look at those new light bulbs you will be forced to use now. In London, they come in heavy paper and plastic wrap. Why? Because if they break in the package they are considered hazardous waste! They cannot be recycled, nor picked up by the refuse people --- if you break one you have used you are advised to put on gloves and carefully wrap them in plastic, and you must dispose of them at a hazardous waste site. How often do you think people will actually do that? In 10 years we will have mercury poisoning in all our landfills -- and then the ground water, etc.

SweetRetreat said...

At times I don't know which way to turn. So much information, so many experts. In the end, I simply revert to moderation in everything and hope for the best. Yes to 15 minutes of real sunshine in exposed skin for Vitamin D. I knew if I wanted long enough some expert would offer this advice.

Wild Alaskan or Western Canada sockeye salmon, Western Canadian Angus beef - we do need red meat for good health. No fish oil pills thanks. Molecularly distilled or not.

I plan to enjoy spring, especially the local asparagus and look forward to a leisurely summer on a quiet lake. Leave the big issues for the long winter months.


Karena said...

Dominique so much info from so many experts! Dr Oz. Dr Perricone. I now have to go and look at my fish oil and see if it mercury free!

I just want to be healthy strong & keep my sense of safefty in this life....worry is too much stress!

Art by Karena

marybeth said...

Thank you for another wonderful post! The Omega-3 supplement I take is a great vegetarian one: DHA made by Spectrum! http://www.spectrumorganics.com/?id=283#j259

Happy weekend!

Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, Interiors said...

Wonderful article. A great reminder to us all!! I especially, enjoyed reading your last sentence about staying young. I so agree with you...Be a do-er, smile a stranger and say good morning to five people everyday.

Thank you!

William said...

I generally stay away from fish and fish products like fish oil supplements due to the obvious health risks. My food choice for leading a healthful life is beef - there is nothing better for the body and the spirit than a rare grilled rib-eye. Oh, and I've done extensive research on this - there is no chance of mercury poisoning from vodka - so the next time you are tempted to take a fish oil pill get out the bottle of Grey Goose instead.

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning & Readers...

You'd probably enjoy and profit from going to this link:


you can, alternatively, simply google "Peoples Pharacy fish oil" (I just did it, and it worked)

Those are various articles on fish-oil supplements and their various health benefits. theQ&A threads from commentators/readers are also quite helpful. All are from "The People's Pharmacy" (their radio program, which is syndicated to a gazillion radio stations in USA and around the world on Public Radio. the Graedons also have a wildly popular syndicated newspaper column and have published something around 15-20 books).

I've got their latest "Recipes and Remedies from The People's Pharmacy" (they're friends of ours, and patiently brought it as a present to chainsmoking Herve's 40th birthday party last week at this house)....also a copy for my Tennessee mother, who WORSHIPS them and their every word, printed or spoken.

In any case, I've regularly, when reading postings such as this one on fish oils, that you and many of your readers would appreciate knowing about "The People's Pharmacy" (and yes, the website/column/radio show all take questions from readers and listeners).

I've just sent to the link to "Slow Love" to Terry and Joe....

one of the few undeniable talents I have is throwing very enjoyable parties....primarily because I regularly think "Oh....those folks would LIKE each other and find each other interesting...I should introduce them..."

Level Best as Ever,

David Terry

Dominique said...

Many thanks for the introduction to the People's Pharmacy, I will go there straight away.

I cannot drink those clear spirits anymore. I can't remember which it is, gin or vodka, but one of them makes me terribly ill after a martini, (maybe that's why I can't remember which one) so I'm avoiding them all. However, I can happily recommend Lagavulin or LaPhroig for all sorts of medicinal benefits. (Yes, I like those peat bogs. Not that I've ever seen one. But they taste delicious.)

Yes, the mercury in florescent bulbs is troublesome, extremely so. I 'll bet there will be another new bulb that is safer soon enough, probably something LED..

And yes, Alaskan salmon for sure. They have not been shown to be mercury contaminated.

It is overwhelming, how much information we get, and some of it contradictory. But I guess that's how science works: every year, we learn more....and we adapt. But that's why, when something is as clear as mercury in fish oil pills, I want to share that news. It cannot be good for any of us.

A leisurely summer on a quiet lake sounds supremely entrancing. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

One has to wonder about any of the supplements that are we are being advised to ingest...and have trustingly for years. The other day in the newspaper, I read how for years the American public had downed thousands of milligrams of Vit E, only to find out it is now considered a health risk!!!!! I definitely will look for Mercury free fish oil, or take Flax oil instead. Just about everyday lately i dcide that I am going to give up sugar, meat, fat ect and eat like a monk. unfortunately everyday I do the opposite. Oh, what I would do to not self medicate with food. Dominique, your so good at writing and inspiring us, how about a daily blog on eating right? You can be my diet/nutrition muse!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, lets have Dominique help us all eat right and diet!

William said...


I was concerned about pointing out the medicinal benefits of Lagavulin or LaPhroaig out of concern there would be a run on them and leave a shortage here in the U.S.. After reading your mention of them, I rushed out and stocked up. Who needs fish oil?

Cristina said...

as I usually take a whole package of Omega3 twice a year, from now on I'll be carefully looking for the "mercury free" indication. thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

A wonderfully convenient and satisfying way to get essential fatty acids is to walk out to your back yard and (providing that you have not succumbed to the toxic herbicide/pesticide-dependent ministrations of a "lawn service") pick some weeds! Dandelions, chickweed, purslane, wild violets--they are all edible and full of vitamins, minerals and omega 3s. Now that Spring is here, I urge you to do what your grandmothers did: go out on a beautiful morning with a bowl and scizzors, and pick yourself a Spring tonic. Wash the leaves well, chop them up, add them to an omelet, soup or salad. I eat weeds every day from early Spring to the deepest freeze. They help balance hormones, keep bones strong and skin resilient, protect your liver and heart, and tone your digestive system. And in the 10 or 15 minutes it takes to pick them, you can listen to the birds, enjoy the flowers, and get a dose of vitamin D from the sun--all for free.


david terry said...

The Oracles Have Spoken!....

According to Joe and Terry Graedon's new book, "Recipes and Remedies from The People's Pharmacy":

"...fish oil capsules, hoever, should not contain mercury. (you can visit consumerlab.com for more information on tests of fish oil capsules. And for information on which fish are safest to consume, both for you and the environment, Sea food Watch fromthe Monterfey Aquarium is a great resource. Visit www.seafoodwatch.org"

I'd not heard of "consumerlab.com" until reading this. It sounds like the place several folks here might want to go.

Level best as Ever,

David Terry

Alfredo E. said...

There are basically 2 types of omega 3, from vegetable and animal origin. The omega 3 present in vegetables is in the ALA omega 3 fats form which have to be converted by your body into the EPA and DHA Omega 3 fats. The animal omega 3 fats are already in the EPA and DHA form so they are readily available for assimilation. You only assimilate a 5 – 10% of the omega 3 in the ALA form.

Therefore, it is more efficient to take fish oil, cod liver oil or krill oil than the flaxseeds or chia oils you find in the market.

Make sure you take at least 900 mg of total omega 3 fats per day (EPA plus DHA from the label) to really get the benefits of omega 3.

Read more at http://www.omega-3-fish-oil-wonders.com/fish-oil-and-heart-disease.html

Best wishes,
Alfredo E.

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