Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease is a very serious, life-threatening disease that affects as many as 30,000 Americans. Johns Hopkins estimates that up to 5,000 new cases of ALS are diagnosed every year.
We’ve all heard of ALS thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2015, but how much do you really know about ALS? Simply put, ALS involves the death of the motor neurons that travel from the brain to the muscles. The death of these motor neurons leads to muscle weakness, twitching, and eventually wastage. Eventually, the muscles needed for breathing stop functioning, leading to death.
Risk factors in ALS include age and gender (men older than 55 are more likely to develop it), as well as exposure to toxins, pesticides, and heavy metals. According to a new study, there may be a new risk factor involved in ALS: fish.
Well, not fish specifically, but the mercury found in fish and seafood. Exposure to heavy metals like lead and mercury have been linked to a wide range of health problems. A team of researchers from Dartmouth College found that those with the highest exposure to mercury had twice the risk of developing ALS than those with the least amount of exposure.
Of the 518 participants, nearly 300 suffered from ALS. Their dietary information revealed that they consumed more of the fish and seafood that tended to have higher quantities of mercury—such as swordfish, shark, and other fish at the top of the food chain. They also ended up eating fish caught in the high-mercury waterways.
ALS patients accounted for 61% of the people with the highest 25% of estimated intake of mercury. Those with the highest mercury intake were twice as likely to develop ALS than those who consumed low quantities of mercury.
Granted, this was just one small study, so a larger sample size will be needed before making this hard and fast proof. However, it’s a good indication of the dangers of eating the wrong seafood. In this case, this means fish with a higher level of mercury: fish at the top of the food chain, and fish caught in high-mercury waters.
Even if you’re not worried about ALS, you should still take steps to reduce mercury. As a heavy metal, it’s highly toxic and can lead to all sorts of health problems.