EcoHealth study examines Selenium-Health Benefit Value

A study released this week by University of North Dakota researchers shows the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration methods for formulating seafood consumption guidelines may not provide a reliably accurate assessment of seafood safety.

The results of “Selenium-Health Benefit Values as Seafood Safety Criteria,” published in the journal EcoHealth, examined a new food-safety criterion known as the Selenium-Health Benefit Value (Se-HBV) that predicts risks or benefits of seafood species based on mercury and selenium content.

Because it considers both the health benefits of selenium as well as risks of methylmercury, according to the study, the Se-HBV index provides far more accurate predictions of seafood benefits and safety than current criteria that are based on mercury content alone.

The research team, led by Dr. Nicholas Ralston, previously demonstrated that laboratory animals fed diets with selenium levels approximately equal to those present in ocean fish are more than enough to protect against the adverse effects from mercury levels that are many times greater than those that actually occur in ocean fish.

“Since selenium and mercury occur together in seafood but affect health outcomes in opposing directions, it is essential to look at the balance of these elements present in fish,” said Ralston. “Seafood-safety criteria based on the Se-HBV will improve protection of public health by properly restricting consumption of hazardous seafoods such as pilot whale and shark meats while improving public health by encouraging mothers to eat types of ocean fish that optimize their nutritional status and enhance the IQs of their children.”

The study was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Proponents hope the findings will lead to a more balanced approach to seafood consumption guidelines.

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