STONY BROOK, N.Y.,
October 4, 2011 – Stony Brook
University has launched a pilot epidemiologic study targeting avid fish
consumers that will examine the benefits and risks of seafood consumption. The
“Long Island Study of Seafood Consumption,” led by Jaymie Meliker, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor, Graduate Program in Public Health, Department of
Preventive Medicine, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, is now
recruiting for study participants via a qualifying survey. The study is funded
by The Gelfond Fund for Mercury Research &
Outreach, which supports
research at Stony Brook that aims to improve the understanding of how mercury
cycles in our environment and the health effects of methylmercury from fish
To learn more about
the Long Island Study of Seafood Consumption and determine eligibility, see the
According to a 2007
study by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, nearly 25
percent of adults in New York City, and nearly 50 percent of Asian New Yorkers
are estimated to have blood mercury levels that exceeded recommended levels for
pregnant women. Humans are primarily exposed to mercury through consumption of
seafood, which contains methylmercury, an environmental product formed in
aquatic systems that is a neurotoxicant in the developing fetus, as well as
linked to illnesses in adults if consumed at high levels. All fish contain
methylmercury, but some bigger, longer-lived fish such as swordfish, shark,
marlin, king mackerel, and certain species of tuna (bluefin, big eye, and yellow
fin) have the highest levels.
“Seafood, in general,
is good for us, but with some types of fish having high levels of
methylmercury, it is important for the public health community to better
understand risks and benefits from eating specific fish,” says Dr. Meliker. “We
hope the study results will help us to better communicate dietary
recommendations to the public regarding the consumption of fish.”
Dr. Meliker says the
study will analyze different types of seafood consumption categorically from
data detailing study participants’ seafood intake. Researchers will also take
measures of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as levels of mercury and
selenium via blood samples from participants, all of whom must be non-pregnant
adults who enjoy eating seafood.
Through The Gelfond
Fund for Mercury Research and Outreach, Nicholas Fisher, Ph.D., Distinguished
Professor in the School of Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook, leads Stony
Brook’s Consortium for Inter-Disciplinary Environment
Research (CIDER), a select group of faculty from diverse disciplines to address complex
environmental problems, including the issue of mercury and seafood consumption.
CIDER has facilitated
several activities to date. This year a distinguished group of experts came
together to work on improving awareness of mercury in seafood within the
medical community. The group recently published a paper in the Journal of
Toxicology’s special issue on metals and diseases entitled, “Recognizing and Preventing
Overexposure to Methylmercury from Seafood Consumption: Information for
Physicians.” The paper is
designed to help physicians recognize the early signs and symptoms of methylmercury
exposure before symptoms progress to more serious outcomes.
M.P.A., of The Gelfond Fund for Mercury Research and Outreach, lead author of
the paper, and CIDER staff member, says that physicians should recommend their
seafood eating patients follow the USDA guideline of consuming 8 to 12 ounces
per week of low mercury fish. If patients eat more than that amount, or favor
higher mercury fish, she suggests they choose low mercury fish most often.
Ms. Silbernagel and
Dr. Meliker, also a CIDER faculty member, expect that the study results will
reveal new information about human health in relation to fish consumption.
About The Gelfond
Fund for Mercury Research and Outreach
Established in 2009
by Richard Gelfond, CEO and Director of IMAX Corporation, alumnus of Stony
Brook University, and Chairman of the Stony Brook Foundation, The Gelfond Fund
for Mercury Research and Outreach supports research at Stony Brook University.
Administered through CIDER, the Fund provides information to the public and
health professionals about how mercury gets into seafood and what the health
effects can be from too much mercury.
personally experienced health effects from consuming a lot of high mercury
fish. As someone who frequently ate seafood for the health benefits, he was
unaware that there were any potential negative health consequences to his diet.
The source of his health problem was not diagnosed for several months until one
physician asked him about his diet after reading an article in The New York
Times about mercury in seafood. Once Mr. Gelfond was aware of the connection,
he changed his diet and eventually his blood mercury levels went down and
symptoms subsided. The experience prompted Mr. Gelfond to start the Fund with a
$1 million gift to Stony Brook University.
In addition to
providing educational outreach, the Fund seeks to identify areas where there
are gaps in the scientific understanding about methylmercury and provide pilot
funding to launch research projects. The fund also aims to serve as a resource
for scientists and others interested in data on mercury in seafood.