AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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Mercury in Fish, Seafood May Be Linked to Higher Risk of ALS

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Eating fish and seafood with higher levels of mercury may be linked to a higher risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), according to a preliminary study. However, fish and seafood consumption as a regular part of the diet was not associated with ALS. “For most people, eating fish is part of a healthy diet,” said study author Elijah Stommel, MD, PhD, of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). “But questions remain about the possible impact of mercury in fish.” While the exact cause of ALS is unknown, some previous studies have suggested mercury to be a risk factor for the disease. In the U.S., the primary source of exposure to mercury is through eating fish contaminated with the neurotoxic metal. Often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a progressive neurological disease that takes away the ability of nerve cells to interact with the body’s muscles. Early symptoms of the disease can include muscle twitching and weakness in a limb. It typically develops into complete paralysis of the body, including the muscles needed to speak, eat and breathe. There is no cure for ALS, and eventually the disease is fatal.

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