The CCF Challenge (Will food and science reporters take the bait?)

If you swallow the scary stories anti-food activists are constantly pushing to the media, you might be worrying about trace amounts of mercury in the fish you eat. But new research shows that levels of mercury in fish might be irrelevant after all. Since 2006 when we published “The Flip Side of Mercury,” we’ve been saying that selenium levels in seafood might actually be canceling out the negative effects of mercury, in an all-natural conspiracy to make fish the “brain food” your mom always said it was. (Selenium is a key antioxidant that helps guard against heart disease and boosts your immune system.) The News-Press in Fort Myers has the details:

Selenium — an essential mineral found in all saltwater and many freshwater fish — counteracts the toxic effects of mercury when it is present in equal or greater amounts than mercury, according to University of North Dakota environmental scientist Nicholas Ralston. If a fish has a higher selenium value than mercury, it would have a health benefit. If a fish were to have more mercury than selenium, it could be harmful….
Of 15 oceanic fish for which Ralston has tested, only mako shark had more mercury than selenium. Swordfish had only slightly more selenium than mercury, and all other fish, including thresher sharks and four tuna species — the most commercially popular fish — were considered strongly beneficial.

That’s big news. Even the much-maligned swordfish could be fully vindicated from mercury scaremongering. And tuna, the poster-fish for green scare campaigns, appears to have been unfairly singled out since it’s plentiful in selenium.
Here’s the catch, as the News-Press notes: Today’s fish consumption warnings are based only on the levels of mercury in fish. (Click here for more information about how supposed dangers from mercury in fish are often hyped by environmental alarmists and government regulators.)
After all, there has never been a single medically proven case of mercury toxicity related to commercial seafood in the United States (unless you take Jeremy Piven’s word for it). In fact, our wildly popular seafood calculator shows that an average-sized man could eat more than 10 pounds of canned light tuna every week before he would have any hypothetical new health risks from mercury.
We have to wonder: How many more newspapers will report on this important new research? The benefits of eating fish are well-documented, especially for pregnant mothers, but for too many years to count, activists have been telling people to throw the baby out with the bath water.
So we’re issuing a challenge to health and science writers and bloggers: Take a look at Dr. Ralston’s research. See if it passes the smell test. And allow yourself to challenge the conventional wisdom in print.
Can you imagine how the news about fish would change if everyone knew about the relationship between selenium and mercury? We sure can. Now it’s up to you, reporters. We know you’re out there.

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